Renney lands a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity
Former Oilers coach now Hockey Canada president, CEO
Tom Renney, left, and Jim Hornell, chairman of the board, pose with jerseys at a Calgary news conference where Renney was introduced as the new head of Hockey Canada.
Photograph by: Jeff McIntosh, THE CANADIAN PRESS
EDMONTON - There is a very good life available for former Edmonton Oilers head coaches.
Tom Renney is now president and chief executive of Hockey Canada, one of the best jobs in the world, while Ralph Krueger is president of Southampton FC, a Barclays Premier League soccer team in England.
Renney, who was Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock’s right-hand man the past two years, is charged with filling the very big shoes of Bob Nicholson, who quit Hockey Canada and now works as vice-chairman of Daryl Katz’s Oilers Entertainment Group.
Renney has been a hockey coach most of his adult life, with a few interruptions after being fired by the Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers and the Oilers in 2012, or when he worked briefly for the Rangers in player development/player personnel.
But he’s putting away his whistle, maybe for good. He is tasked with making hockey the winter sport of choice for more Canadians; of growing the game, not just winning the games; although being president of Hockey Canada also means bringing home the gold medal at the world junior and world championships, and the Olympics, whenever possible.
“This opportunity comes along once in a lifetime,” said Renney, who was head coach of the national team from 1992-94, vice-president of Hockey Canada’s hockey operations from 1997-99, coached Canada’s world junior team to a silver medal in ’99, and was assistant coach on the 2004 and 2005 world men’s teams.
He was always behind a bench, though.
Now he’s Hockey Canada’s main man, after a process where Jim Hornell, chairman of the board of directors, said he was “overwhelmed by the quality of candidates.”
“I know other candidates for this position were above and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said Renney. “From talking to my peer group, they all said this was a fabulous hockey job. A no-brainer.”
Renney, 59, interviewed for head coaching jobs with the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricane after the season, but the ’Canes hired another Detroit assistant coach, Bill Peters, and the Panthers went with Gerard Gallant.
“I knew I was in the hunt, but I had my eye on this (job),” said Renney. “It wasn’t in the back of my mind, but I had planted the seed.”
Renney indicated that Red Wings general manager Ken Holland brought Hockey Canada’s interest to him. Holland knew how important, and all-encompassing, the job is.
Renney will look after hockey development, high performance teams (men’s, women’s and juniors), corporate sales, events and marketing, and membership services.
He doesn’t have a lot of business expertise, although Rat Ferraro, his friend from Trail, B.C., says Renney once ran a clothing shop while moonlighting as a coach in his early days. It’s little wonder he’s always been one of the best dressed hockey coaches.
When asked if he’d miss coaching, Renney said: “Yes, I will, no question. I miss my kids when they’re not around, too.”
When somebody asked on a conference call Tuesday what his biggest challenge was, Renney laughed.
“The biggest challenge today was finding my office,” he said. “I know how daunting (this job) is. I’m one of the gatekeepers of the game.”
Renney will be travelling the country, involved in the grassroots part of the game, dealing with the myriad of great volunteers, trying to ensure that children and parents still want to be at a hockey rink.
“We want our kids taken care of, we want our coaches to have good ethics. Every parent feels they have the next great one and will the coach play this kid over another kid,” said Renney. “But the vast majority of kids are out there to have fun. It’s developing players and good citizens.
“I want to pay particular attention to development, to grassroots hockey ... the little people have to want to play this game and older people have to want to continue to play it and when you get to that great old age, you want to play it as a lifetime sport,” said Renney.
“We have to make sure immigrants, people new to the game, embrace it as soon as possible.”
A survey a year ago of 875 non-hockey families showed children were dropping out because it wasn’t fun, it was too time-consuming, players were getting hurt and the cost of playing the game. The cost has been a major concern for years, from elite travel teams to the cost of arena ice rental, equipment, registration and insurance.
“If people are getting value for their dollar, they will find ways and means to play,” said Renney. “Point one for me is making hockey a safe environment for the kids, not just physiologically. The game has to be fun to play.”
“Hockey is so valuable to us ... it gets all of us.”
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal