Canada women turns to former NHL assistant Pearn as coach

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Perry Pearn wanted to take his 21 years of coaching in the NHL to a team that valued his experience.

He found that with the Canadian women’s team, which he will coach at the Four Nations Cup starting Tuesday in Saskatoon. Sweden, Finland and the reigning Olympic and world champion U.S. team round out the field.

Coaches with NHL experience have been through the national women’s program before. Kevin Dineen, fired as head coach of the Florida Panthers, coached the Canada women to gold at the 2014 Olympics.

The 67-year-old Pearn was an assistant coach in the NHL long enough to be on the original Winnipeg Jets coaching staff. He also was an assistant with Ottawa, Montreal, the New York Rangers and most recently the Vancouver Canucks until 2016-17.

“I was at the stage in my career in the men’s game where there didn’t seem to be much value in the experience I had,” Pearn told The Canadian Press. “Consequently, I felt that experience was way more valued on the women’s side.”

His last head-coaching gig was with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers in 1994-95. He also coached Canada to a gold medal at the 1993 world junior men’s championship.

“The way my career spun in the NHL, I wound up being an assistant coach,” he said. “It didn’t seem like if I wanted to stay in that league there was ever going to be the opportunity to be a head coach. Certainly that’s part of it too is having the opportunity to be a head coach again and in some ways prove to myself that the things I did when I was a head coach weren’t a fluke. They were built on some pretty sound principles.”

While Pearn brings a loaded coaching resume from the men’s side, Hockey Canada’s new director of the women’s national program, Gina Kingsbury, said winning was the top priority for her hire. The U.S. has beaten Canada in the final of the last four world championships and last three Four Nations, as well as prevailing in a shootout in the 2018 Olympic final.

“Winning is important. It really is,” Kingsbury said. “When it comes down to the first Four Nations of a new quad, to me about it’s getting back to a winning culture. The sooner we get back there, I think the better we will be.”

Former New York Islanders assistant Bob Corkum is head coach of the U.S. team for the first time.