Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team will have a direct Saskatchewan influence in South Korea.
Hockey Canada unveiled Willie Desjardins, from Climax, as head coach of the 2018 team, while North Battleford native Dave King will serve as an assistant coach.
Desjardins, most recently head coach of the Vancouver Canucks for three seasons, briefly coached the Saskatoon Blades in 1998.
King is known as a legendary university, junior and international coach with National Hockey League experience. He is a member of the Order of Canada, Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame and Order of Hockey in Canada.
King is well-known in Saskatoon for coaching the University of Saskatchewan men’s hockey team in the early 1980s, guiding them to three conference championships and eventually a national title in 1983.
While he was with the U of S, King also led the Canadian national junior team to a gold medal in 1982 and a bronze in 1983.
He later coached the national Olympic team in 1984, 1988 and 1992, earning a silver medal in his final outing.
King went on to coach the Calgary Flames for three seasons between 1992 and 1995, and later served as the first head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He most recently manned the bench in Russia’s KHL for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv.
King’s Olympic experience will be key: he coached three of the last four Olympic teams before the NHL signed an agreement to have their players appear in the tournament.
With the NHL saying their players won’t attend the South Korean games, the task of assembling a national team will be more difficult.
Desjardins and King will work with a leadership group, including former goalies Martin Brodeur and Sean Burke, to figure out how they will fill the roster.
The strategy could include American Hockey League players without NHL contracts, as well as junior competitors or players in overseas leagues.
The Olympic hockey tournament starts Feb. 10, 2018, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
King has also become more prominent in Saskatoon recently, leading the Home Ice Campaign to fundraise for a new arena at the U of S.
The arena began construction in April, after King helped co-chair Tim Hodgson raise more than $29 million for the project.