CALGARY – The search is over. After several months of scouring the Canadian hockey world from coast to coast, Hockey Canada has hired Tom Renney to replace Bob Nicholson as its President and CEO. Renney now becomes the most powerful hockey man in a country which just won Olympic gold in the men’s and women’s tournament in Sochi.
“I am excited to dedicate my efforts to grassroots development and high performance hockey with a volunteer base second to none in the world," Renney enthused at his first press conference.
While a surprising appointment only in that he comes from the pro ranks – whereas Nicholson’s previous experience had been at the amateur level – Renney brings with him troves of international success that goes back more than two decades.
"It was a very thorough process, and we were overwhelmed by the quality of the candidates interested in leading Hockey Canada going forward," said Jim Hornell, the chairman of Hockey Canada’s board of directors. "In Tom, we have an individual with great experience at all levels of the game, as well as a strong passion for hockey development. Tom understands and has demonstrated the value of teamwork and capacity building."
The 59-year-old coached Kamloops to a Memorial Cup victory in 1992, and a year later he was hired by Hockey Canada to coach the National Team for two years, including the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. That event, of course, culminated with Peter Forsberg’s winning goal in the shootout, relegating Canada to silver.
Renney also worked as an assistant coach at the 1993 World Championship (fourth place) and the subsequent ’94 Worlds where he was part of the team that won a gold medal. He later was the head coach for Canada at the 1995 and 1996 World Championships, winning bronze and silver, respectively.
In a return to his roots, Renney took the job as head coach of the U20 team three years later, guiding Canada to the final game of the 1999 World Junior Championship in Winnipeg before losing in overtime to Russia. He was behind the bench at the 2000 Worlds when the team finished fourth.
Renney served as an assistant coach at the 2004 World Championship, winning gold, and the 2005 team, which finished with a silver medal. Additionally, he led Canada to victory at the 2000 Nagano Cup and coached Canada’s entry in the 2000 Spengler Cup, finishing third.
In the NHL, Renney coached the Vancouver Canucks for a little more than a season (1996-97) and later coached the New York Rangers for nearly six years (2003-09), moving up from director of player personnel to assistant coach to head coach. He coached the Edmonton Oilers for two seasons (2010-12).
Most recently, he has worked as an assistant coach in Detroit under Mike Babcock, the man who took Canada’s men to gold at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.
The incoming president of Hockey Canada has both the easiest and the toughest of jobs. Because he oversees hockey from the grassroots level, through to bantam, midget, and junior hockey, all the way up to the Olympics, he must deal with a host of challenges, from declining enrollment because of costs, worries about head injuries, and the ever-challenging connection between junior and pro hockey.
But the rewards are many, none greater than Canada’s tremendous Olympic success, the massive popularity of the World Junior Championship, set for Toronto and Montreal this year, and the phenomenal growth of the women’s game.