Lightning's Cooper named Canada Olympic coach

Montreal (AFP) –

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Jon Cooper, who guided the Tampa Bay Lightning to the past two NHL titles, was named on Monday as coach of Canada's 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic team by Hockey Canada.

The appointment is contingent upon the NHL striking a deal with Olympic officials to participate in next February's Games in China.

The Canadian squad seeks a gold medal for the third time in the past four Olympics, winning the title in 2010 and 2014 but settling for bronze in 2018 at Pyeongchang, where NHL talent did not participate.

"It's an honour to be entrusted with leading Canada's men's Olympic team next year in Beijing," Cooper said.

"I have many fond memories of the Olympics, from watching games as a young kid to thrilling gold medal victories, and I look forward to helping create lasting memories for Canadians across the country while our team competes for a gold medal."

Three other NHL head coaches were named as Cooper's assistants -- Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins, Peter DeBoer of the Vegas Golden Knights and Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders.

The coaching staff unveiled would guide Canada's squad only if the NHL and International Olympic Committee (IOC) strike a deal.

Negotiations continue between the NHL, its players union, the IOC and the International Ice Hockey Federation regarding the 2022 Olympics.

Among issues being discussed is insurance, including Covid-19 safeguards.

The NHL has planned an Olympic break in its 2021-22 schedule, but says it will release a revamped schedule if talks fall through.

Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney said he was excited about the coaching lineup, citing its NHL experience.

"We're thrilled to have them lead us at the Olympics and represent our country with pride as they build a team that will compete for a gold medal," Renney said.

Cooper guided Canada to a silver medal at the 2017 world championships, which typically are conducted during the NHL playoffs. Having spent the past nine seasons with Tampa Bay, he's the longest-tenured coach in the NHL.

Cassidy was the 2019-20 NHL Coach of the Year while DeBoer and Trotz have each been assistants on four world championship squads, including one gold medal winner, and coached teams to the Stanley Cup finals, Trotz taking a title with Washington in 2018.