NEWS
08/10/2011 02:41 EDT | Updated 10/10/2011 05:12 EDT

Dan Church to coach Canadian women's hockey team in two international events

CALGARY - Dan Church will serve as head coach of the Canadian women's hockey team at two upcoming international tournaments.

The 38-year-old from Toronto will be behind the bench later this month at a new event, the Eight Nations tournament in Finland, as well as at the annual Four Nations Cup this November in Sweden.

Church is entering his eighth season as head coach of the York University Lions women's team.

The former golf pro was an assistant to Ryan Walter at this year's women's world championship in Switzerland, where Canada lost the gold-medal game in overtime to the U.S.

Church also coached Canada to gold at the 2010 women's world under-18 championship.

Hockey Canada is reserving the right to name a different head coach for the 2012 world women's championship in Burlington, Vt., next April.

"We just want to make sure we make the right decisions with everyone in our coaching pool," director of female hockey Kalli Quinn said Wednesday.

"It's a world championship. It is going to determine our seeding for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi so we want to make sure we're comfortable going forward into the world championship knowing we have looked at every possibility before we decide on that."

The governing body of hockey in Canada employed the same strategy last season, when Ryan Walter was initially named head coach for just the Four Nations and then his contract was extended to the world championship.

"I hope I do a good enough job and that they consider me for the championships at the end of the year," Church said Wednesday from his office at York University. "I understand why they didn't at this point.

"I've benefited from that plan in the past, being part of a coaching pool and having opportunities in different programs and different roles in different programs is a benefit. In the end, it means we're going to have a better pool of qualified candidates for a head coaching position with an Olympic team."

Church will be assisted by former national team star Danielle Goyette, who coaches the University of Calgary's women's team, as well as Cornell University's Doug Derraugh.

Canada opens the Eight Nations tournament Aug. 24 against Switzerland in Vierumaki, Finland. The tournament is part of the International Ice Hockey Federation's plan to reduce the large gaps between countries.

The thinking is more competitive opportunities will motivate federations to put more resources into women's hockey, as well as inspire players to improve their fitness and skills.

Hockey Canada will name Canada's roster as early as Thursday. Quinn says the lineup won't be identical to Canada's world championship team.

Olympic team captain Hayley Wickenheiser won't be on it. Wickenheiser told The Canadian Press in an e-mail she declined an invitation to play in the tournament because of "family commitments."

"I think Dan will do a great job," Wickenheiser said. "I really liked him as an assistant coach and look forward to working with him."

Some players who are in school have also been given a pass on the Eight Nations. The national women's team is holding an evaluation camp in September and that combined with November's Four Nations and next year's world championships would take them away from school too much this winter, says Quinn.

But Church has high expectations for the Canadian team, regardless of who is on the roster.

"It's great we're going to be able to participate in this and grow the game, but from a player and a coach perspective, we're going there to compete and this is one of the first steps in regaining the world title we haven't won in awhile," he said.

"It's about setting the tone and direction for this year, and leading towards Four Nations and beyond to world championships."

While Canada beat the U.S. 2-0 to win the Olympic gold medal last year, they've fallen to the Americans in three straight world championship finals. Canada edged the U.S. 3-2 in overtime to win the 2010 Four Nations tournament in St. John's, Nfld., last November.

"We need to get back to the approach that we want to be the best in the world," Church said. "Being the best isn't a some-of-the-time thing. It's an all-the-time thing."

Church played hockey for the University of Toronto, but says he was a better golfer than hockey player. He got his Canadian Professional Golf Association certification, entered qualifying school for the Canadian Tour for straight four years and played in a few events.

He recalls shooting under par every day of a Canadian Tour event in Sarnia, Ont., and still finishing tied for 53rd.

"I was a really talented golfer, but never had the financial backing to go out and play and not worry about making cuts and not having a job," Church said. "If I'd had lots of money and freedom, I might have done a little bit better, but in the end, the six inches between my head was the biggest problem."

He was a volunteer coach for the University of Toronto women's hockey team when he applied to coach at York.

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