Q&A with Canadian Olympic GM Sean Burke

On top of his scouting duties with the Montreal Canadiens, the former Olympian is in charge of the Hockey Canada braintrust actively scouring the globe for talent in an effort to assemble a team that’s worthy of defending Canada’s back-to-back gold won by NHL talent at the two previous Olympics.

With less than two months before Pyeongchang, and while waiting to board a flight to Moscow (a fitting location, for sure), we caught up with Burke to discuss his Olympic journey, which began more than three decades ago when he became a member of the Canadian National Team, and how that experience lends itself to the tremendous challenge he accepted last summer.

Justin Cuthbert: Let’s start from the beginning. You first joined the Canadian National Team in 1985-86, after being drafted into the NHL. What made you choose that route?

Sean Burke: It was really a decision by the (New Jersey) Devils. They decided I would develop better and a lot quicker if I was with the National Team rather than going back for another season of junior. It was great foresight. A real big part of my development as a young player was playing for Dave King. It wasn’t the traditional way to develop a player but it was an option, and it was a good one.

You definitely couldn’t get away with it in the NHL. The CBA wouldn’t allow for the amount of work we put in those days. It was a great system because sometimes you had two weeks between tournaments or games. There was a lot of practice time. We practiced twice a day, a lot of off-ice training, a lot of education. You learned a lot as a young guy. We had VO2 testing a few times a year to make sure we were all in top condition. And we had a lot of high-competition games with the Russians, Czechs, Swedes and Finns. A lot of the teams we played had the best players in the world outside of the NHL, because a lot of them hadn’t come over yet.

Given that all your energy and efforts were put toward the Olympics in Calgary, I imagine the pressure you put on yourselves was incredibly high. But the pressure from outside the locker room, how would that compare to what the players may have felt in Vancouver and Sochi?

There was a lot of internal pressure. The Olympics were in Canada. We had beat the Russians in Moscow a couple months before, but knew we weren’t necessarily the better team. They were going to come into Calgary wanting revenge for that game and get back at us. We obviously felt the pressure of playing in front of home fans, but I guess when you’re young like that you don’t really think of it in those terms. The focus, the preparation – that was the most important lesson we got in those days. You’re not always going to be the better team, but if you’re prepared and in top shape, you’ll give yourself a chance. That was important for me at an early age.

We didn’t get a lot of attention until it came time for the Olympics. But we played in a lot of top tournaments, played NHL teams in preseason and usually beat most of them. We had a collection of really good players that weren’t necessarily going to have great NHL careers, but the team was well constructed. We had a lot of quick guys, fit guys. We flew under the radar maybe in terms of publicity, but we played a lot of good teams. The competition always took us very seriously, that’s for sure.

I don’t remember exactly. I know I played the Russian game, and we got beat 5-0. We lost to the Finns. We didn’t medal, coming fourth. I guess that wasn’t satisfying, but I think as a young player I thought I had performed well. The Russians were such a good team in those days, with all the best players that hadn’t come to the NHL yet. Looking back I think you appreciate it more, but you’re never satisfied unless you win. I don’t remember the feeling at the time, but I’m sure I wasn’t overly ecstatic with not getting a medal at those Games.

Sean Burke backstopped Canada to a silver medal at the 1994 Olympics in Albertville. (CP PHOTO/COC/Scott Grant)

No, probably not. I was onto the NHL right away. Right after the Olympics, three or four days later, I went to New Jersey and started my NHL career. When ’92 came around, I wasn’t playing very well in New Jersey. I lost a little bit of my game, and enthusiasm, and I needed something different. The Olympics were coming around again so I took a year and left, went back and did it again. It was one of the better things I had done in my career, to be honest.

I had a real appreciation for how much I enjoyed it. I needed to get my game back, but also felt there was some unfinished business. I was going back as a veteran. I had a different role, and in my mind I had different expectations. I felt like we had a chance to win a gold medal and I knew I would play a big role in that. I had a lot of positive feelings about going back the second time to play.

The first Olympic tournament that I really remember was in 2002, and the 50-year narrative that surrounded that team. When you were preparing for Albertville, did the 40-year narrative exist?

Not really. It was different. I don’t remember a lot from 1992 other than going in with a really good feeling, knew I had a role, and that I could have a really big impact at the Olympics. It was focus on what we had to do, not on what was being said or what was going on out there.

I read that you made sure to appreciate being an Olympian the second time. What did you learn, or take away from the second run?

I went back to the NHL a much different player. I had much more of an appreciation of how great the opportunity was to play in the Olympics, but also to be a pro. You’re young and emotional, and go through some roller-coaster moments. I just felt I went back after that with contentment, knowing where I was going. I had confidence in myself as a player. I had played in two Olympics and I was only 25. I felt like now I could go into the NHL and wouldn’t have to ride that roller coaster, and the highs and lows. I appreciated that I was doing something that I love doing. You better enjoy it if you think you’re going to do it for any length of time. I went on to last 18 or 19 years in the league. Those Olympic experiences were what made me enjoy the game that much.

Not really, but I never watched the game. We were 0-0 after two periods. When you’re in a gold medal game you don’t win the silver, you lose the gold. It’s very disappointing when that game ends, even when you’re standing there, receiving a silver medal in the Olympics. It’s a pretty nice achievement, but it’s hard to think that way when you lose the gold medal. You gain perspective on it as the years go by.

Burke has been tasked with perhaps the greatest challenge that a Hockey Canada executive has ever had. (CP)

Fast forward to now and Hockey Canada has given you perhaps the greatest challenge that anyone in your seat has ever had. Has the process of putting together this national team been at all daunting?

I wouldn’t say it’s been daunting. I’m surrounded by really good people. We have a really good management team. I know at the end of the day, while it may look like one guy is picking the team, that’s not the case. Myself, Scott Salmond, Tom Renney, our coaching staff has worked extremely hard. Willie Desjardins, Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft are great hockey guys. If you’re surrounded with people like that, it’s not daunting. It’s a challenge, but I have a really good team with me that can get it done.

You once appeared in 43 games and 2500 minutes one season for the National Team. The team you select for Pyeongchang will only have a handful of games together, if that. How much of concern is this?

It would be more of a concern if it wasn’t the same for everybody. Obviously the Russians and some of the European teams play with each other more, so that’s a challenge for us. But I think we’ve had a really good schedule. We have seen all of our players multiple times, and we’ll see them again a couple more times. It’s not ideal – that would be the word – but that’s all part of the challenge. That makes it even more interesting, seeing how this team will come together.

I think every Canadian team wants to play the same. You want to play an aggressive, controlled game, where you’re not sitting back. You’re coming out physical within the discipline that you need to have at those kind of tournaments. We want to be a quick team that pressures, but a lot of that will depend on our personnel. But the intensity and work rate that Canada usually plays with will be part of our culture.

Looking at the past GMs for Hockey Canada at the Olympics. It obviously involves scouting and managerial experience, and being a decorated former national team member seems like a requirement. But is there something to be said, too, for familiarity first hand and experience specific to the situation?

I think it helps. I think I can put myself in the shoes of a lot of these players. This opportunity is not something these guys ever thought about. It’s going to be a highlight of most of these guys’ careers. There’s a pressure and expectation that goes with that. I was in that position a few times and understand it. The international game, the format, and enjoying being a part of the bigger team – Team Canada; there’s a lot that goes into an Olympics and I’ve had the opportunity to be at a couple of them. That doesn’t help you with scouting, or putting the best players on the ice. But I think once you get there, that experience can play a factor.

I haven’t even thought about a next potential job. I haven’t had the time. It is a real honour for me, and I said when I got the job that I wasn’t going to do anything but focus on what I have to do – try to do the best I could. That’s been the way I’ve approached it, and I don’t see that changing. Whatever is down the line – who knows? But it can’t change the approach right now. There’s too much work to do, and it’s too enjoyable right now to worry about what’s coming next.

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On top of his scouting duties with the Montreal Canadiens, the former Olympian is in charge of the Hockey Canada braintrust actively scouring the globe for talent in an effort to assemble a team that’s worthy of defending Canada’s back-to-back gold won by NHL talent at the two previous Olympics.

With less than two months before Pyeongchang, and while waiting to board a flight to Moscow (a fitting location, for sure), we caught up with Burke to discuss his Olympic journey, which began more than three decades ago when he became a member of the Canadian National Team, and how that experience lends itself to the tremendous challenge he accepted last summer.

Justin Cuthbert: Let’s start from the beginning. You first joined the Canadian National Team in 1985-86, after being drafted into the NHL. What made you choose that route?

Sean Burke: It was really a decision by the (New Jersey) Devils. They decided I would develop better and a lot quicker if I was with the National Team rather than going back for another season of junior. It was great foresight. A real big part of my development as a young player was playing for Dave King. It wasn’t the traditional way to develop a player but it was an option, and it was a good one.

You definitely couldn’t get away with it in the NHL. The CBA wouldn’t allow for the amount of work we put in those days. It was a great system because sometimes you had two weeks between tournaments or games. There was a lot of practice time. We practiced twice a day, a lot of off-ice training, a lot of education. You learned a lot as a young guy. We had VO2 testing a few times a year to make sure we were all in top condition. And we had a lot of high-competition games with the Russians, Czechs, Swedes and Finns. A lot of the teams we played had the best players in the world outside of the NHL, because a lot of them hadn’t come over yet.

Given that all your energy and efforts were put toward the Olympics in Calgary, I imagine the pressure you put on yourselves was incredibly high. But the pressure from outside the locker room, how would that compare to what the players may have felt in Vancouver and Sochi?

There was a lot of internal pressure. The Olympics were in Canada. We had beat the Russians in Moscow a couple months before, but knew we weren’t necessarily the better team. They were going to come into Calgary wanting revenge for that game and get back at us. We obviously felt the pressure of playing in front of home fans, but I guess when you’re young like that you don’t really think of it in those terms. The focus, the preparation – that was the most important lesson we got in those days. You’re not always going to be the better team, but if you’re prepared and in top shape, you’ll give yourself a chance. That was important for me at an early age.

We didn’t get a lot of attention until it came time for the Olympics. But we played in a lot of top tournaments, played NHL teams in preseason and usually beat most of them. We had a collection of really good players that weren’t necessarily going to have great NHL careers, but the team was well constructed. We had a lot of quick guys, fit guys. We flew under the radar maybe in terms of publicity, but we played a lot of good teams. The competition always took us very seriously, that’s for sure.

I don’t remember exactly. I know I played the Russian game, and we got beat 5-0. We lost to the Finns. We didn’t medal, coming fourth. I guess that wasn’t satisfying, but I think as a young player I thought I had performed well. The Russians were such a good team in those days, with all the best players that hadn’t come to the NHL yet. Looking back I think you appreciate it more, but you’re never satisfied unless you win. I don’t remember the feeling at the time, but I’m sure I wasn’t overly ecstatic with not getting a medal at those Games.

Sean Burke backstopped Canada to a silver medal at the 1994 Olympics in Albertville. (CP PHOTO/COC/Scott Grant)

No, probably not. I was onto the NHL right away. Right after the Olympics, three or four days later, I went to New Jersey and started my NHL career. When ’92 came around, I wasn’t playing very well in New Jersey. I lost a little bit of my game, and enthusiasm, and I needed something different. The Olympics were coming around again so I took a year and left, went back and did it again. It was one of the better things I had done in my career, to be honest.

I had a real appreciation for how much I enjoyed it. I needed to get my game back, but also felt there was some unfinished business. I was going back as a veteran. I had a different role, and in my mind I had different expectations. I felt like we had a chance to win a gold medal and I knew I would play a big role in that. I had a lot of positive feelings about going back the second time to play.

The first Olympic tournament that I really remember was in 2002, and the 50-year narrative that surrounded that team. When you were preparing for Albertville, did the 40-year narrative exist?

Not really. It was different. I don’t remember a lot from 1992 other than going in with a really good feeling, knew I had a role, and that I could have a really big impact at the Olympics. It was focus on what we had to do, not on what was being said or what was going on out there.

I read that you made sure to appreciate being an Olympian the second time. What did you learn, or take away from the second run?

I went back to the NHL a much different player. I had much more of an appreciation of how great the opportunity was to play in the Olympics, but also to be a pro. You’re young and emotional, and go through some roller-coaster moments. I just felt I went back after that with contentment, knowing where I was going. I had confidence in myself as a player. I had played in two Olympics and I was only 25. I felt like now I could go into the NHL and wouldn’t have to ride that roller coaster, and the highs and lows. I appreciated that I was doing something that I love doing. You better enjoy it if you think you’re going to do it for any length of time. I went on to last 18 or 19 years in the league. Those Olympic experiences were what made me enjoy the game that much.

Not really, but I never watched the game. We were 0-0 after two periods. When you’re in a gold medal game you don’t win the silver, you lose the gold. It’s very disappointing when that game ends, even when you’re standing there, receiving a silver medal in the Olympics. It’s a pretty nice achievement, but it’s hard to think that way when you lose the gold medal. You gain perspective on it as the years go by.

Burke has been tasked with perhaps the greatest challenge that a Hockey Canada executive has ever had. (CP)

Fast forward to now and Hockey Canada has given you perhaps the greatest challenge that anyone in your seat has ever had. Has the process of putting together this national team been at all daunting?

I wouldn’t say it’s been daunting. I’m surrounded by really good people. We have a really good management team. I know at the end of the day, while it may look like one guy is picking the team, that’s not the case. Myself, Scott Salmond, Tom Renney, our coaching staff has worked extremely hard. Willie Desjardins, Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft are great hockey guys. If you’re surrounded with people like that, it’s not daunting. It’s a challenge, but I have a really good team with me that can get it done.

You once appeared in 43 games and 2500 minutes one season for the National Team. The team you select for Pyeongchang will only have a handful of games together, if that. How much of concern is this?

It would be more of a concern if it wasn’t the same for everybody. Obviously the Russians and some of the European teams play with each other more, so that’s a challenge for us. But I think we’ve had a really good schedule. We have seen all of our players multiple times, and we’ll see them again a couple more times. It’s not ideal – that would be the word – but that’s all part of the challenge. That makes it even more interesting, seeing how this team will come together.

I think every Canadian team wants to play the same. You want to play an aggressive, controlled game, where you’re not sitting back. You’re coming out physical within the discipline that you need to have at those kind of tournaments. We want to be a quick team that pressures, but a lot of that will depend on our personnel. But the intensity and work rate that Canada usually plays with will be part of our culture.

Looking at the past GMs for Hockey Canada at the Olympics. It obviously involves scouting and managerial experience, and being a decorated former national team member seems like a requirement. But is there something to be said, too, for familiarity first hand and experience specific to the situation?

I think it helps. I think I can put myself in the shoes of a lot of these players. This opportunity is not something these guys ever thought about. It’s going to be a highlight of most of these guys’ careers. There’s a pressure and expectation that goes with that. I was in that position a few times and understand it. The international game, the format, and enjoying being a part of the bigger team – Team Canada; there’s a lot that goes into an Olympics and I’ve had the opportunity to be at a couple of them. That doesn’t help you with scouting, or putting the best players on the ice. But I think once you get there, that experience can play a factor.

I haven’t even thought about a next potential job. I haven’t had the time. It is a real honour for me, and I said when I got the job that I wasn’t going to do anything but focus on what I have to do – try to do the best I could. That’s been the way I’ve approached it, and I don’t see that changing. Whatever is down the line – who knows? But it can’t change the approach right now. There’s too much work to do, and it’s too enjoyable right now to worry about what’s coming next.

On top of his scouting duties with the Montreal Canadiens, the former Olympian is in charge of the Hockey Canada braintrust actively scouring the globe for talent in an effort to assemble a team that’s worthy of defending Canada’s back-to-back gold won by NHL talent at the two previous Olympics.

With less than two months before Pyeongchang, and while waiting to board a flight to Moscow (a fitting location, for sure), we caught up with Burke to discuss his Olympic journey, which began more than three decades ago when he became a member of the Canadian National Team, and how that experience lends itself to the tremendous challenge he accepted last summer.

Justin Cuthbert: Let’s start from the beginning. You first joined the Canadian National Team in 1985-86, after being drafted into the NHL. What made you choose that route?

Sean Burke: It was really a decision by the (New Jersey) Devils. They decided I would develop better and a lot quicker if I was with the National Team rather than going back for another season of junior. It was great foresight. A real big part of my development as a young player was playing for Dave King. It wasn’t the traditional way to develop a player but it was an option, and it was a good one.

You definitely couldn’t get away with it in the NHL. The CBA wouldn’t allow for the amount of work we put in those days. It was a great system because sometimes you had two weeks between tournaments or games. There was a lot of practice time. We practiced twice a day, a lot of off-ice training, a lot of education. You learned a lot as a young guy. We had VO2 testing a few times a year to make sure we were all in top condition. And we had a lot of high-competition games with the Russians, Czechs, Swedes and Finns. A lot of the teams we played had the best players in the world outside of the NHL, because a lot of them hadn’t come over yet.

Given that all your energy and efforts were put toward the Olympics in Calgary, I imagine the pressure you put on yourselves was incredibly high. But the pressure from outside the locker room, how would that compare to what the players may have felt in Vancouver and Sochi?

There was a lot of internal pressure. The Olympics were in Canada. We had beat the Russians in Moscow a couple months before, but knew we weren’t necessarily the better team. They were going to come into Calgary wanting revenge for that game and get back at us. We obviously felt the pressure of playing in front of home fans, but I guess when you’re young like that you don’t really think of it in those terms. The focus, the preparation – that was the most important lesson we got in those days. You’re not always going to be the better team, but if you’re prepared and in top shape, you’ll give yourself a chance. That was important for me at an early age.

We didn’t get a lot of attention until it came time for the Olympics. But we played in a lot of top tournaments, played NHL teams in preseason and usually beat most of them. We had a collection of really good players that weren’t necessarily going to have great NHL careers, but the team was well constructed. We had a lot of quick guys, fit guys. We flew under the radar maybe in terms of publicity, but we played a lot of good teams. The competition always took us very seriously, that’s for sure.

I don’t remember exactly. I know I played the Russian game, and we got beat 5-0. We lost to the Finns. We didn’t medal, coming fourth. I guess that wasn’t satisfying, but I think as a young player I thought I had performed well. The Russians were such a good team in those days, with all the best players that hadn’t come to the NHL yet. Looking back I think you appreciate it more, but you’re never satisfied unless you win. I don’t remember the feeling at the time, but I’m sure I wasn’t overly ecstatic with not getting a medal at those Games.

Sean Burke backstopped Canada to a silver medal at the 1994 Olympics in Albertville. (CP PHOTO/COC/Scott Grant)

No, probably not. I was onto the NHL right away. Right after the Olympics, three or four days later, I went to New Jersey and started my NHL career. When ’92 came around, I wasn’t playing very well in New Jersey. I lost a little bit of my game, and enthusiasm, and I needed something different. The Olympics were coming around again so I took a year and left, went back and did it again. It was one of the better things I had done in my career, to be honest.

I had a real appreciation for how much I enjoyed it. I needed to get my game back, but also felt there was some unfinished business. I was going back as a veteran. I had a different role, and in my mind I had different expectations. I felt like we had a chance to win a gold medal and I knew I would play a big role in that. I had a lot of positive feelings about going back the second time to play.

The first Olympic tournament that I really remember was in 2002, and the 50-year narrative that surrounded that team. When you were preparing for Albertville, did the 40-year narrative exist?

Not really. It was different. I don’t remember a lot from 1992 other than going in with a really good feeling, knew I had a role, and that I could have a really big impact at the Olympics. It was focus on what we had to do, not on what was being said or what was going on out there.

I read that you made sure to appreciate being an Olympian the second time. What did you learn, or take away from the second run?

I went back to the NHL a much different player. I had much more of an appreciation of how great the opportunity was to play in the Olympics, but also to be a pro. You’re young and emotional, and go through some roller-coaster moments. I just felt I went back after that with contentment, knowing where I was going. I had confidence in myself as a player. I had played in two Olympics and I was only 25. I felt like now I could go into the NHL and wouldn’t have to ride that roller coaster, and the highs and lows. I appreciated that I was doing something that I love doing. You better enjoy it if you think you’re going to do it for any length of time. I went on to last 18 or 19 years in the league. Those Olympic experiences were what made me enjoy the game that much.

Not really, but I never watched the game. We were 0-0 after two periods. When you’re in a gold medal game you don’t win the silver, you lose the gold. It’s very disappointing when that game ends, even when you’re standing there, receiving a silver medal in the Olympics. It’s a pretty nice achievement, but it’s hard to think that way when you lose the gold medal. You gain perspective on it as the years go by.

Burke has been tasked with perhaps the greatest challenge that a Hockey Canada executive has ever had. (CP)

Fast forward to now and Hockey Canada has given you perhaps the greatest challenge that anyone in your seat has ever had. Has the process of putting together this national team been at all daunting?

I wouldn’t say it’s been daunting. I’m surrounded by really good people. We have a really good management team. I know at the end of the day, while it may look like one guy is picking the team, that’s not the case. Myself, Scott Salmond, Tom Renney, our coaching staff has worked extremely hard. Willie Desjardins, Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft are great hockey guys. If you’re surrounded with people like that, it’s not daunting. It’s a challenge, but I have a really good team with me that can get it done.

You once appeared in 43 games and 2500 minutes one season for the National Team. The team you select for Pyeongchang will only have a handful of games together, if that. How much of concern is this?

It would be more of a concern if it wasn’t the same for everybody. Obviously the Russians and some of the European teams play with each other more, so that’s a challenge for us. But I think we’ve had a really good schedule. We have seen all of our players multiple times, and we’ll see them again a couple more times. It’s not ideal – that would be the word – but that’s all part of the challenge. That makes it even more interesting, seeing how this team will come together.

I think every Canadian team wants to play the same. You want to play an aggressive, controlled game, where you’re not sitting back. You’re coming out physical within the discipline that you need to have at those kind of tournaments. We want to be a quick team that pressures, but a lot of that will depend on our personnel. But the intensity and work rate that Canada usually plays with will be part of our culture.

Looking at the past GMs for Hockey Canada at the Olympics. It obviously involves scouting and managerial experience, and being a decorated former national team member seems like a requirement. But is there something to be said, too, for familiarity first hand and experience specific to the situation?

I think it helps. I think I can put myself in the shoes of a lot of these players. This opportunity is not something these guys ever thought about. It’s going to be a highlight of most of these guys’ careers. There’s a pressure and expectation that goes with that. I was in that position a few times and understand it. The international game, the format, and enjoying being a part of the bigger team – Team Canada; there’s a lot that goes into an Olympics and I’ve had the opportunity to be at a couple of them. That doesn’t help you with scouting, or putting the best players on the ice. But I think once you get there, that experience can play a factor.

I haven’t even thought about a next potential job. I haven’t had the time. It is a real honour for me, and I said when I got the job that I wasn’t going to do anything but focus on what I have to do – try to do the best I could. That’s been the way I’ve approached it, and I don’t see that changing. Whatever is down the line – who knows? But it can’t change the approach right now. There’s too much work to do, and it’s too enjoyable right now to worry about what’s coming next.

Sean Burke discusses his journey and how his experience lends itself to the challenge of choosing Canada’s Olympic team….

Canadian Olympic men’s team general manager Sean Burke still has many miles to travel to scout hours and hours of games. But the man put in charge of following the back-to-back golden footprints of Steve Yzerman likes what he has witnessed so far.

Of course, there will be no NHLers made available for the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in six months time. That’s why Burke was in Russia earlier this month, where he watched two different Canadian rosters play in two tournaments.

Canada played six games over 12 days, won four of the six outings and placed third in the events in Sochi and St. Petersburg.

The 50-year-old Burke refused to identify players who stood out, but he was pleased with the speed and intensity his two groups exhibited. He also was impressed with the mobility of the Canadian defence, particularly in the first tournament in Sochi.

“The biggest takeaway is that we needed to play these games to get a great evaluation on a lot of our players and also to see just how quick paced the hockey is going to be,” Burke said.

“The two games against the young Russian Olympic team [a 3-2 loss in Sochi] and St. Petersburg [a 3-0 loss in St. Petersburg] were fast and intense. It was a great opportunity for our players and staff to evaluate.”

Mason Raymond of Cochrane, Alta. certainly grasped his opportunity in Sochi. The 31-year-old veteran of 609 NHL regular season and playoff games scored twice in Canada’s 3-1 win against Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the third-place game in Sochi.

“To potentially say you can be an Olympian one day, it would be something special,” said Raymond, who scored three times in five games in Canada’s win at the Spengler Cup last December. “It’s a process that we’re going through here, and I look forward to hopefully the next opportunity to represent Team Canada and see where that could take me.”

Raymond continued to display plenty of chemistry with his 2016 Spengler Cup teammate Andrew Ebbett of Vernon, B.C. The two will be teammates with SC Bern in Switzerland this season.

In St. Petersburg, 26-year-old forward Taylor Beck scored twice and assisted on another goal in a tournament-opening 5-1 win against HC Sochi. The native of St. Catharines, Ont. split time in the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers organizations last season.

For Burke, being in charge of the Olympic team has been a return to his roots. Burke was 18 years old when he decided to leave the Toronto Marlboros to join the Canadian national team in 1986.

Burke played behind Andy Moog in the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary, joined the New Jersey Devils after Canada’s fourth-place finish and returned four years later to lead Canada to a silver-medal showing in Albertville, France in 1992.

Burke has enjoyed a distinguished international record. Besides his two Olympics, he won gold with Canada at the 1997 and 2003 world championships, silver at the 1986 world junior and served as the backup for the title-winners in the 1991 Canada Cup.

After his playing days, he became a respected goalie coach and assistant general manager with the Arizona Coyotes and is now a pro scout with the Montreal Canadians,

Up next in Burke’s Olympic odyssey will be a return trip to Russia later this month to continue to scout Canadians in the Kontinental Hockey League. Hockey Canada vice-president Scott Salmond also will visit Russia on a scouting trip.

Then, Burke and his management team and coaching staff will scour the junior and college loops for potential help, but the main focus will be on Canadians playing in Europe.

The next Canadian roster will be built for an exhibition game against Switzerland on Nov. 8 and then the Karjala Cup in Helsinki, Finland, Nov. 9-12.

Canada will compete in two more tournaments in mid-December — the Channel One Cup in Moscow (formerly known as the Izvestia Tournament) and the Spengler Cup over the Christmas holidays.

The Canadian rosters for the two tournaments in December will house many of the players who will play for Canada in Pyeongchang. But there still are many of miles and hours and hours of games to watch before Burke and Co. arrive in South Korea.

Former Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins will lead a group of non-NHL players at the Pyeongchang Olympics next February in South Korea.

Longtime Canadian coach Dave King and ex-NHL forwards Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft were named assistants at the Hockey Canada Hall of Champions on Tuesday.

Former NHL goaltenders Sean Burke and Martin Brodeur will be Canada’s general manager and management team member, respectively. They join Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney, president and COO of Hockey Canada Scott Smith and Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations and national men’s teams.

“The faces on our Team Canada rosters may be different than in previous years, but the expectations will be the same,” Renney said. “With the addition of Sean, Martin, Willie, Dave, Scott and Craig, we have assembled some of the best hockey minds out there to help us meet those expectations of on-ice success.”

Three months ago, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman put an end to NHL players’ participation in the Winter Games in Pyeongchang because the International Olympic Committee refused to cover the travel, insurance and hospitality costs.

because the International Olympic Committee refused to cover the travel, insurance and hospitality costs.

Without the marquee names that won gold at the 2002, 2010 and 2014 Olympics. Pyeongchang ends a streak of five consecutive Winter Olympics with NHL players.

“This is our plan, it is our Plan A,” he told a media conference call Tuesday. “It’s a twist of fate for sure, but we love the opportunity thanks to the gentlemen that we have introduced earlier today.”

Desjardins, 60, is not employed by an NHL club after the Canucks fired him on April 10 following a second straight missed playoffs.

Under the Climax, Sask., native, Vancouver was 29th in the 30-team NHL in the 2016-17 season with a 30-43-9 record for 69 points, fewest by a Canucks outfit over an 82-game campaign since 1999. In three seasons, Desjardins compiled a 109-110-27 mark.

The Canucks hired him in June 2014 and watched Desjardins guide the club back to the Stanley Cup playoffs the following April after a 48-win regular season.

Before arriving in Vancouver, Desjardins led the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League to a Calder Cup championship. He won the AHL’s coach of the year award in 2013 when he led the Stars to their first-ever South Division regular season title.

Prior to his AHL tenure, Desjardins spent two seasons as an associate coach with the Dallas Stars from 2010-12. In junior, the ex-Medicine Hat Tigers bench boss was Western Hockey League coach of the year for the 2005-06 season and tops in the Canadian Hockey League in 2006.

Desjardins’ resume also includes stints on Canada’s staff at two world junior tournaments and one world championship.

Hockey Canada has finalized an exhibition schedule of games that will see Olympic candidates play in Russia at the Sochi Hockey Open , Aug. 6-9, with early games against host HC Sochi and the Russian national team, and the Nikolai Puchkov Tournament in St. Petersburg, Aug. 14-17.

Rosters for those events have already been stocked with the likes of former NHLers Max Talbot, Derek Roy, Mason Raymond, Ben Scrivens, Justin Peters, Cam Barker, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Carlo Colaiacovo — all now playing in Europe.

“We’re going to play these two events in August, hopefully find out a lot of things that we have. But we’re going to have to also find out some of the things we don’t have,” said Burke, adding he expects the bulk of Canada’s Olympic roster to come from European-based players.

“Any player that’s eligible, whether he’s playing in North America on an AHL contract or in college, junior, we don’t want to leave any stones unturned.”

King, 69, will stand alongside Desjardins after he returned to the Canadian national team bench for the first time since the 1999 world hockey championship last November at the Deutschland Cup in Augsburg, Germany, where his charges finished second to Slovakia. Six months later, King was an assistant with Canada’s team that won silver at the world championship.

King began his international coaching career in 1982 with a world junior gold medal and world championship bronze before adding bronze at the world juniors the following year. He was Canada’s full-time head coach from 1983 until the 1992-93 season when the Calgary Flames hired him, and was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame as a builder in 2001.

Walker, 44, has been a player development consultant with the Canucks since October 2015. The Cambridge, Ont., native racked up 151 goals, 397 points and 1,162 penalty minutes in 829 regular-season games in a 15-year NHL career with Nashville, Carolina, Washington and Vancouver.

Following his playing career, Walker was head coach with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League from 2010-15, winning a league title in 2014. Internationally, he won gold with Canada as an assistant at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka tournament and 2015 world juniors.

The 47-year-old Woodcroft is the new head coach with the Swiss club Geneve-Servette after leading Dinamo Minsk of Russia’s Kontinential Hockey League last season. He was an assistant coach with Belarus at the world championship in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

As a player, Woodcroft appeared in 63 games with Canada’s national squad, winning a bronze medal at the 1990 Goodwill Games.

The Toronto native was drafted to the NHL in the seventh round in 1988 but never suited up for a game. His experience in the league includes two seasons as a skill development coach with the St. Louis Blues and two years as director of rookie development camp with Nashville.

Burke, 50, has been a professional scout with the Montreal Canadiens since last September. The Windsor, Ont., native also spent six seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes’ management team in various roles after playing 820 NHL regular-season games.

He has international experience as an assistant GM with the Canadian men’s team that won world championship silver two months ago and was GM of this year’s Deutschland Cup and 2016 Spengler Cup championship teams. A two-time Olympian, Burke won two gold and two silver medals as Canada’s goalie at the world championship.

Brodeur, 45, was named Blues assistant general manager in May 2015 after a Hall of Fame playing career that saw the Montreal native become the NHL’s all-time winningest goalie with 691 victories. The three-time Stanley Cup champion will return to the front office on a full-time basis after doubling as the Blues’ goalie coach following Jim Corsi’s firing late last season.

During his playing days, Brodeur was named the NHL’s top goalie four times and represented Canada eight times internationally, winning the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, Olympic gold in 2002 and 2010 and world championship silver in 1996 and 2005.

Sean Burke and Willie Desjardins have been charged with finding and leading non-NHL talent for Team Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.

Burke will serve as Canada’s GM for the 2017-18 season with former Canucks coach Desjardins behind the bench.

Burke, a pro scout with the Canadiens, will be aided on the management side by another former goaltender in Martin Brodeur, assistant general manager of the St. Louis Blues.

With the NHL electing not to participate in South Korea, Canada will be without the marquee names that won gold at the 2002, 2010 and 2014 Olympics. Pyeongchang ends a streak of five consecutive Winter Olympics with NHL players.

“It’s a twist of fate for sure, but we love the opportunity thanks to the gentlemen that we have introduced earlier today,” he added.

Hockey Canada says it has already been scouting players, with two tournaments next month in Russia kicking off the road to Pyeongchang.

The rosters for those events — the Sochi Hockey Open Aug. 6-9 and the Tournament of Nikolai Puchkov in St. Petersburg, Aug. 14-17 — have already been stocked with the likes of former NHLers Max Talbot, Derek Roy, Mason Raymond, Ben Scrivens, Justin Peters, Cam Barker, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Carlo Colaiacovo — all now playing in Europe.

“We’re going to play these two events in August, hopefully find out a lot of things that we have. But we’re going to have to also find out some of the things we don’t have,” said Burke.

“Any player that’s eligible, whether he’s playing in North America on an AHL contract or in college, junior, we don’t want to leave any stones unturned.”

The Olympic hockey tournament is slated for Feb. 9-25, with the IIHF World Championship following in May in Denmark.

Burke has served Canada in a variety of management roles at the IIHF World Championship, Spengler Cup and Deutschland Cup. A two-time Olympian (1988, 1992), he won silver in 1992 at Albertville, France.

Burke is Canada’s all-time goaltending leader in games played (35), minutes played (1,991), and wins (21) at the IIHF World Championship where he won two gold and two silver medals in five appearances as a player.

Desjardins, fired by Vancouver in April, was an assistant coach with the Canadian national team 1998-99 and as assistant at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship.

King, whose international coaching career dates back to 1982, was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in the builder category in 2000-2001.

Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup champion and four-time Vezina Trophy winner, earned Olympic gold in 2002 and 2010.

While the new Team Canada management has experience, it lacks the star power of Sochi in 2014 when Tampa GM Steve Yzerman’s management group included Ken Holland, Kevin Lowe and Doug Armstrong in addition to Hockey Canada representatives.

Toronto’s Mike Babcock returned to coach in Sochi with help from assistants Ken Hitchcock, Claude Julien, Lindy Ruff, and consultant Ralph Krueger.

The NHL cited a number of reasons why its owners were against Olympic participation, with having to take a lengthy break in February to accommodate the Games a major obstacle.

There were also disagreements over who should pay for travel, insurance and accommodations costs for the players. The league also pointed to injuries suffered at the Games as well as the negative effects of a compressed schedule.

COLOGNE, Germany – Team Canada assistant GM Sean Burke had a lot on his mind when he watched the world championship.

Burke, who said he expects to be the man to head up Canada’s Olympic entry sans NHL players, viewed the IIHF top tournament as more than just a cheerleader. He kept an eye on countries whose roster might closely resemble the ones they’ll ice at the Pyeongchang Games in barely more than nine months.

In the days to come, however, Burke will turn his attention towards finding a coach – likely one without a contract or an assistant with head coaching aspirations.

“We do have to get on that fairly soon,” Burke said. “We have our list and we are going through it. I would imagine, in the next month, we’ll have a coach in place.”

Burke said three-time Olympic team coach Dave King will be on the staff in various capacities. King served as an assistant coach at the worlds, was an associate coach on Canada’s winning entry at the Spengler Cup last December and headed up a silver-medal performance at the Deutschland Cup a month earlier.

Burke’s connection to the Olympics extends beyond his preliminary preparations for Pyeongchang. The former goaltender played on the 1988 and 1992 Olympic teams, two of the most recent Games without NHLers (1994 being the last). He won a silver medal in 1992. After an 18-season NHL career, he began working for Hockey Canada before the 2014 world junior championship.

Burke, who doubles as a scout for the Montreal Canadiens, caught up with Sportsnet.ca before Canada’s world championship final against Sweden to discuss the Olympics, his experiences and the work and uncertainty that lies ahead.

SEAN BURKE: Just my long history with them. First of all, going back to ’86-’87 when I joined Dave King with the national program. I’ve had a long history with them in a number of areas. For me, any time you can put on the jersey and the next best thing when you’re done playing is to be around the tournaments. It’s really special.

Just my long history with them. First of all, going back to ’86-’87 when I joined Dave King with the national program. I’ve had a long history with them in a number of areas. For me, any time you can put on the jersey and the next best thing when you’re done playing is to be around the tournaments. It’s really special.

They were different. Both of them were unique. In ’88, I was so young. I’m just going there trying to play as well as I could. I didn’t really take in much of the Olympics. I was in the village, but didn’t really go to any other events. I enjoyed it, but I did think that I let that stuff go by because I was so focused. In ’92, I took in more of the spirit of the Olympics and felt more of not just the hockey team, but Team Canada as a whole. The focus and everything was still there, but I think I enjoyed the experience a bit more.

They must have been different given one was in Calgary, in Canada, and the other was in France. But did either of them seem like they didn’t have that lustre with NHL players?

In those days, there was no real thought of NHL players. The Olympics were what they were at that time. You had a national team. You trained year-round for the Olympics. Looking back, at all those rosters, especially on our team in ’92 when we had (Eric) Lindros and Joey Juneau, we had guys who went on to have very good NHL careers. The Russian team did, too. Some of the other clubs – Teemu Selanne was one of the leading scorers. In ’88, the Big Red Machine was still there. I don’t think there was any lustre lost. In those days, Olympic hockey was great. It was presented by great teams. We never thought of NHL players participating.

You mentioned Lindros and Juneau. What allowed those types of young players to have success besides their status as top prospects?

They were just really good hockey players. Eric at that time was 18 and a prodigy, big, strong, more of a man for that age. Joey Juneau was just a smart player. But the Olympic experience at a young age like that really helped those guys as well.

Are those the types of players that could be beneficial to have, guys that are young and on the cusp? Are those the types of players you’re seeking?

We hope. We don’t really know who’s eligible. If we’re looking at it today, we’ve got good players playing in Europe. But those aren’t what you’d consider young, up-and-coming players. They’re mostly guys that have had short NHL careers or haven’t had the opportunity or were drafted and went to Europe for different reasons. So it’s a little different. Until we know who’s eligible, it’s hard to really long beyond the guys playing in Europe, most of the guys we’ve seen. There are some really good hockey players. To find a young Eric Lindros or an Auston Matthews or someone like that who played over in Europe last year, that’s a rarity.

You mentioned guys playing in Europe, one on the world championship team is Chris Lee, a 36-year-old defenceman who had 65 points for Magnitogorsk Metallurg of the KHL. What do you like about his game?

He’s a great skater. He’s a real power-play specialist. I don’t say that in a negative way because sometimes that can conjure up an image of a guy who can’t play in his own end. Chris has found his game later. He never had an NHL career. He came over to Europe and came into his own. He’s smart and he can handle the puck. On the big ice, when you’ve got those skills and you’ve got the head for the game, it’s a nice combination.

The first thing I learned, surprisingly, which I probably should have known, is just what an honour it is for everybody to wear the jersey. When you play for Canada at different events, especially the Olympics and world juniors and world championships, you sort of take for granted that not everybody gets that opportunity. Those tournaments, we used a bunch of guys who’ve never put the jersey on. For them to play in a Deutschland Cup or a Spengler Cup, meant every bit as much to those guys as it did to these guys at a world championship or an Olympics. It brought back and drove home for me what that means for guys. These Olympics, whether it’s NHL players or it’s not, there’s not a different feeling for whoever puts that jersey on for Canada. That’s beauty for any of our players. If they have that opportunity, they’re going to go out and play as hard as they can and as proud as they can with that jersey on.

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I know you don’t know about player eligibility, but do you have timelines in mind regarding whittling down to a final roster?

The first thing is we have to submit a long list in October. That’s going to be a challenge. We’re probably going to have to put on just about anybody we think would be possible. If they’re not on that list, they can’t play. That’s the first thing – going through and making sure we don’t leave off anybody that’s a possibility. Then, our schedule becomes important. How do we find the right competition? How do we get in the right events and bring our team together and mold our team throughout the year? We only have so many opportunities to do it with these guys playing in so many leagues. That’s the important thing. How do we have a schedule that benefits us?

Would it be exhibition games in the new year or closer to the Olympics? Is that what you’re hoping for?

Well, it would be around the European breaks. There’s one in August, there’s one in November and there’s one in December. Those three breaks, we have access to our players if they are the European guys. If NHL decides that there are some other players eligible, we’ll adjust at that point. For now, we’re looking at those breaks and how we can fill those periods with good games and good competition to narrow our team down as best as we can.

Given that your team is comprised of all NHL players, other than Chris Lee, do you learn anything from watching their games or have you been focusing more on teams who don’t have NHL players?

A little of both. But the interesting thing at these tournaments is that for a number of these teams – the Finnish team being one, the Czech team being another, the Swiss and the German teams – this is what the majority of their Olympic teams will look like. You realize that we’re using our NHL players and those teams are competing with us. You realize in a hurry that it’s going to be very tough (in Pyeongchang). Those countries have come a long way. I’m trying to watch those teams right now, as Dave King is and the rest of our staff, to just get a beat on them. We’re going to see a lot of those players in the Olympics. At that point, nobody’s going to care. There’s no excuses. Canada is expected to perform well. We’re always expected to win. Internally, we expect to win. So, it’s a good tournament from that standpoint. We’ve had a good look at a lot of these guys already. But we don’t know who our team is yet. That’s the challenge.