SOCHI, Russia — David Poile earned a chance to be general manager of the U.S. hockey team after paying his dues as an NHL general manager for more than three decades and giving up a lot of his free time to help USA Hockey.
Since last summer, he spent countless hours trying to shape a roster that would give the Americans a shot to win Olympic gold for the first time since he witnessed what’s known as the "Miracle on Ice," in 1980.
Poile, though, won’t be at the Sochi Games to see the team he helped set up.
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The Nashville Predators GM and former Washington Capitals executive was hit in the face by a deflected puck during an NHL game last week, a freak accident that will force him to watch the U.S. go for gold on TV from his home in Tennessee.
"Serving as GM of the U.S. Olympic Team has been the opportunity of a lifetime and I am forever grateful to USA Hockey," Poile said Monday in a statement from the Predators. "However, it is not possible for me to travel at this time, but I will remain in contact with Ray Shero, Brian Burke, Jim Johansson and our coaching staff during the games.
"Team USA is in great hands and I will be there in spirit. I wish all the best for our players, coaches and entire group as they begin play in the 2014 Olympics and go for the gold."
Poile is recovering from surgery and stitches he needed after the puck hit him while he was standing in a tunnel behind the Predators’ bench in Minnesota.
"I first want to thank everyone who has reached out to me since suffering this injury," Poile said. "The outpouring of support and comfort has been overwhelming."
He led a selection committee that picked the Olympic team after months of work, and his role during the 12-day tournament would have been largely behind the scenes in a supporting role.
"To hear that he had been hurt and to know that he’s not going to be coming over is a huge disappointment," U.S. coach Dan Bylsma said.
Shero, who is general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, will be acting GM in Sochi.
"Having worked with Dave for eight years in Nashville, and knowing, as I told the team, how much passion, time and effort he has put into putting this team together, it’s disappointing," Shero said.
Poile won the Lester Patrick award in 2001 for his contributions to hockey in the U.S., and is a three-time finalist for NHL GM of the year. He has also filled various roles with USA Hockey.
He was the associate GM for the U.S. at the Olympics four years ago, when he assisted Burke after he dealt with tragedy. Burke’s 21-year-old son, Brendan, died Feb. 5, 2010, in a car accident, and he skipped the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Games.