Dave Nonis, the Maple Leafs assistant GM and the new mastermind for Team Canada started out his management career with the Vancouver Canucks working on corporate deals and scouting.
He negotiated player contracts and ran the team’s minor league team in Manitoba, then moved to hockey ops and eventually the GM’s chair.
He succeeded Brian Burke as the youngest ever Canucks GM and then followed him, first to Anaheim and now, as the assistant GM, to Toronto.
But precious little of that extensive resume will prepare him for his new job, steering Team Canada into the IIHF World Championship.
Where the NHL regular season schedule is set well in advance, the tournament is fluid. Players are airlifted in and out. Genuinely injured players sometimes want to play while those with relatively minor hurts opt out. If the NHL is Shakespeare, the World Championship is a night at the Improv.
“The reason I am looking so forward to it is because it’s different from running the ship in the NHL,” Nonis said. “There’s a totally different set of obstacles, a whole new group of opportunities. It’s not the same and you need to surround yourself with good people who will challenge you and speak up what they think is the right way.”
The braintrust will include Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray, longtime star defenceman Rob Blake and Hockey Canada operations chief Brad Pascall.
Nonis, whose pro career ended with one professional season after a two-year stint captaining the University of Maine men, said the chance to wear Canadian colours, even on his lapel, is one of the highlights of his career.
“I couldn’t be prouder of having the chance to represent my country. This is a chance I never got to enjoy as a player.”
The tournament will be convened in Bratislava and Kosice, Slovakia from April 29-May 15. The Canadian teams arrive in Slovakia April 22. Canada is coming off a seventh-place finish in last year’s tournament.
The logistics of winning the World are awe-inspiring. Fourteen of the league’s 30 teams will be eliminated by then but with so many close races covering all the bases means scouting players who won’t be available until after the first round, if at all. By comparison, teams from other European countries have fewer NHL players and far less legwork.
The World Championship carries great weight in Europe while the NHL playoffs dominate the North American Hockey World.
Among the current NHL GMs who have held the job are Steve Yzerman, Doug Armstrong, Kenny Holland and Steve Tambellini.
Even with Nonis working for Team Canada and Burke expected to head Team USA, don’t expect banter from the Maple Leafs executive suite.
“This isn’t about Brian Burke or Dave Nonis,” he said. “This is about two managers wanting to get as much from their teams as they can.”