Former NHL head coach has history with the organization
Hockey Canada has found its man to replace longtime president and CEO Bob Nicholson.
A month-and-a-half after Nicholson said goodbye to Hockey Canada at the organization’s annual general meeting, the Hockey Canada brass announced at Canada Olympic Park that Tom Renney—a man with NHL head coaching stints with the Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers— will lead this national governing body going forward.
“In Tom we have an individual with great experience in all levels of the game, as well as as a strong passion for hockey development,” says Jim Hornell, chairman of the Hockey Canada board of directors. “Tom understands and has demonstrated the value of teamwork and capacity building. We are confident his leadership will be essential in working with staff, volunteers, participants, partners and sponsors in facing the challenges ahead for our organizations, from grassroots through to our national programs.”
Renney, 59, according to Hornell, was one of about 50 candidates that applied for the job. The selection committee began its process of finding Nicholson’s replacement back in April with the intent to name a successor by the end of July.
Photo by Paulina Liwski.
“It’s an absolute privilege to be representing Hockey Canada as its president and CEO,” says Renney. “My mandate is to pay particular attention to development, and particular attention to grassroots hockey. I want people to participate in this game for the right reasons. Little people have to want to play this game and older have to continue to want to play it.
“I love that I have come full-circle with Hockey Canada. I have accomplished a lot of great things in the game but nothing will come close to today.”
Renney does indeed have a long and successful history with Hockey Canada. He joined the organization back in 1992 for a two-year stint as the coach of its National team. He achieved success in this position by guiding a Canadian men’s Olympic team, with no full-time NHL players, to a silver medal in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. He then served as vice president of hockey operations for Hockey Canada from 1997-1999.
Even while serving as a an NHL coach for the New York Rangers, Renney still found the time to be involved in Hockey Canada by being a member of the coaching staff for the organization’s World Championship teams in 2004 and 2005. In total, Renney has been involved in 10 World Hockey Championship competitions in various capacities. He has captured 3 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals.
The native of Cranbrook, B.C. also has experience coaching major junior hockey in Canada. Renney coached the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League (WHL) to a Memorial Cup title back in 1991 to go along with two WHL championships.
Before this appointment Renney served as the associate coach for the Detroit Red Wings under head coach Mike Babcock. Babcock encouraged Renney to pursue this job.
Photo by Paulina Liwski. “We were driving along to Traverse City to watch our minor-league team play, and he said, ‘You know Tom, that’s a job you really should take,’” says Renney. “I thought to myself, ‘That’s interesting’.”
Along with developing grassroots hockey, Renney says improving player safety is paramount, particularly when it comes to concussions. He also wants to see more female leadership in women’s hockey. He has set a goal for himself to maintain the high standards and improve upon Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence.
Bob Nicholson reached out to Renney multiple times throughout this hiring process. Renney says the most important advice imparted to him from his predecessor is “understand and respect the volunteer. Put them in the forefront of what you do. Understand for them it is truly a game and about the love of the sport, and for you it’s a job. Make sure you let them know how much you love it as well.”
One of the first orders of business for the new president and CEO—other than making the move from Detroit to Calgary—is to connect with the various branches of hockey in Canada and the volunteers that make them run.