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Hall of Famer Blake will be key to Canada's success at 2016 World Cup of hockey

06/23/2015 07:00 EDT | Updated 06/23/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Canada has a secret weapon for the 2016 World Cup of hockey: Hall of Famer Rob Blake.

Blake was named to Team Canada's front office for the international tournament on Monday and was chosen as one of general manager Doug Armstrong's assistants for his experience both on and off the ice.

"I've been involved in either the world championships or the Olympics or World Cups, so I've seen a lot of those different situations and hopefully I can relate to some of those players and that aspect," said Blake in Toronto's Westin Harbour Castle hotel shortly after Canada's management group was named.

The defenceman from Simcoe, Ont., has a wealth of experience to draw on.

Blake won a Stanley Cup in 2001, earned the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenceman in 1998 and played in six NHL all-star games. He also excelled in international competition, winning Olympic gold with Canada in 2002 and two world hockey championships in 1994 and 1997. He was part of Canada's silver medal team at the last World Cup in 1996.

After retiring in 2010 he moved in to management, first working as the NHL's hockey operations manager and then becoming an assistant GM for the Los Angeles Kings. He also served as GM for Canada's gold-medal winning team at the 2014 world hockey championships.

Blake expects his role at the World Cup will be very similar to what he already does on a day-to-day basis with the Kings and the men who brought him on board for the tournament agree.

"I always enjoy working with people that can go talk to the players from that been-there-done-that approach," said Armstrong when asked about what he expects Blake to contribute. "There's nothing that these players are going to see that Rob hasn't seen.

"He's going to be a real good liaison between us and the players."

Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, made a point of saying how excited he is to include Blake in the World Cup management group and cited him as a potential key to the team's success at the tournament.

"I think the fact that Rob Blake is involved is important from a player's perspective because he's had huge success himself, both in the National Hockey League but also on the international stage," said Renney. "I think he's one of those voices that the guys will really pay attention to."

The event, hosted by the NHL and NHLPA, will be played at Toronto's Air Canada Centre from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 2016.

Traditional hockey powers Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the United States will have teams, and two all-star teams will also compete. An all-European lineup of players from unrepresented countries will play, as well as a team of North American players 23 years old and younger.

Although the World Cup is over a year away, Blake knows that managing the stress put on Canada's team on home ice is very important.

"The pressure to win is intense. The majority of these guys have been in different situations where they've had that the whole time," said Blake. "But I think one thing Hockey Canada has always done well is protect these players in a short tournament.

"To be able to be protected and sheltered from all the outside noise and everything? Hockey Canada does a terrific job of doing that."

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