Church steps down Canadian women’s hockey coach

Canadian Olympic women’s hockey coach Dan Church resigned

Thursday, less than two months before the start of the Sochi Games,

saying he felt others lacked confidence in his ability to lead the

country to a fourth consecutive gold medal.

The announcement was made hours before Canada’s 5-1 exhibition

loss to the United States, the defending world champion. Hockey

Canada said assistant coaches Lisa Haley and Danielle Goyette will

serve as co-coaches until a new head coach is named.

”If there isn’t confidence in what I’m doing, I need to step

aside and let the team move on,” Church told The Canadian Press.

”I’m heartbroken, to be honest, about the whole situation.”

The players were informed of Church’s departure at their morning

skate.

”Over the last few hours I’ve had discussions with Dan Church

and effective just recently Dan has decided to resign for personal

reasons,” Hockey Canada chief operating officer Scott Smith said

at a news conference Thursday. ”We truly respect the amount of

time that would go into thinking that way and making that personal

decision. We respect Dan’s personal wishes.”

Smith, Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson and female head

scout Melody Davidson will hire the next coach.

”Time certainly is of the essence,” Smith said. ”This

decision came upon us in the last few hours and we’re going to

react as quickly as possible.”

Davidson, who coached the Canadian women to Olympic gold medals

in 2006 and 2010, said she was not a candidate.

”I left because it was time to be off that bench and I’m

comfortable in the role I can play off the ice,” she said. ”I

think there’s some real good candidates there who can help us and

bring a different voice than mine. I’ll definitely support whatever

direction we go in, but it’s not going to involve me as part of the

coaching staff.”

The 40-year-old Church, from Toronto, did not specify whether it

was his players or Hockey Canada management that had questioned his

competence.

”Just discussions I’d had over the last few days made that

apparent, in some meetings I’d had with leadership,” Church said.

”I think it was just difference of opinion on the direction we

were headed. In the end, I just decided if I’m getting in the way

of where the team needs to go, I need to step aside and let them

continue on in the process.”

Asked if Hockey Canada tried to convince him to stay, Church

said, ”No, they did not.”

Church signed a two-year contract to coach the women’s team in

June 2012 and coached Canada to the world title that year in

Burlington, Vt. The Americans beat Canada in the final of this

year’s world championship, in Ottawa.

Church, who did not run the team’s practice Wednesday, told the

CP he was flying to Toronto later Thursday. He did not address the

players before his departure.

Canada also will face the United States this month in Grand

Forks, N.D.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Toronto.