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Blues' Armstrong named GM of Canada at World Cup

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong will be the general manager for Canada for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Hockey Canada announced Monday.

The tournament will be held Sept. 16 to Oct. 1, 2016, with all games at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

"I can't obviously sit here and guarantee that we're going to win the World Cup, but I can guarantee to the fans of Canada that this group will work tirelessly to put the best coaching staff together, the best players together to represent our country with great pride and dignity," Armstrong said.

Armstrong has been general manager of the Blues since 2010, and they've made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in four of his five seasons. Armstrong also was assistant general manager when the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999. He also was part of Canada's management group for gold medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Named as assistants were Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray, Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, Los Angeles Kings assistant GM Rob Blake, and Hockey Canada vice-president of hockey operations and national teams Scott Salmond.

Armstrong said the management group already has submitted two potential rosters for consideration: One created late in the regular season and another after the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The group will continue to evaluate players through the 2015-16 season.

Armstrong also knows the pressure he and his staff will be under when the tournament starts.

"I think the expectations are great here in Canada and everybody signs up for that," he said. "That's what you want. The love of the game here is second to none. There will be pressure to win, but it is a good pressure."

Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, said there is no fear of having too many people taking part in the decisions.

"There is such a deep respect at that level for what each other brings to the table," Renney said. "I am not so sure there are too many; I think you have just enough. And I think the fact Rob Blake is involved from a player's standpoint is huge. He has had success himself in the National Hockey League and also on the international stage. I think he is one of the voices the players will really pay attention to."

Blake said it is always a pleasure to be involved when the top players in the world gather for a battle of supremacy.

"I loved playing in the 1996 World Cup," Blake said. "It was pre-Olympic involvement and it was best-on-best. I had the memories of 1987 [Canada Cup] and watching Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. But for me the World Cup was the height of the international hockey scene back then."

Blake said one of the biggest factors that makes the World Cup special is that the players, for the most part, are healthy at that time of year.

"Even when you break for the Olympics you have guys that are banged up and can't participate," Blake said. "Here everybody has finished the playoffs and things that required surgery have been fixed. You are as healthy as you are possibly going to be. You get the best of the best as healthy as they possibly can be."

This is the time the third World Cup of Hockey will be played. In 1996 the United States beat Canada in the best-of-3 final, and in 2004 Canada beat Finland in the championship game.

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will feature teams from Canada, the United States, Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Russia, as well as Team Europe and Team North American Youngstars.

Team Europe will consist of the best players born outside of the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Russia. The North American Youngstars team will consist of players 23 and younger from Canada and the United States, and will be available exclusively to that team.

"The competition should provide the best hockey available," Armstrong said.

All eight teams will be comprised of 20 skaters and three goalies. The teams must each announce at least 16 players, including two goalies, no later than March 1, 2016, with the balance of the players being announced no later than June 1, 2016.

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