Friday, April 23, 2010

Kevin Lowe's Final Thoughts on the 2010 Olympics

This article first appeared in the April 23rd edition of Main Street Week and is published here with the permission of the editors.

The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver gave us all many wonderful memories and a record number of Gold medal performances for Canada. I had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Lowe for the April edition of Main Street, regarding his experience at the Games, the men's hockey tournament and Sidney Crosby's overtime goal that brought the Olympics to a dramatic finish. To wrap up the conversation, here are some final thoughts from Lowe on a few individual performances and the process of selecting the hockey team.

As I wrote in Main Street and at The Voice of Sport.com, team chemistry was a crucial factor in the selection process for the Olympic team. Canada has an abundance of hockey talent and the management group of Lowe, Steve Yzerman, Doug Armstrong and Ken Holland kept in mind the importance of team chemistry in such a short tournament and selected a group that could come together as a “team” quickly, with defined roles for each of their players.

“Yeah, no question, that was a big part of the plan,” explained Lowe. “Although, it wasn’t difficult to do because a lot of these players had played together before and a lot of them were around the same age. It’s really the first team in the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence, where a lot these players had played together in the under 17 or under 18 tournaments, the World Juniors and the World Championships and then finally came together at the Olympics. The dividends of that program really paid off.”

“We had quite a number of players we could have selected,” continued Lowe. “We factored in team chemistry on and off the ice, personalities and guys that would put the team ahead of themselves.”

Hockey is certainly Canada’s unofficial national sport and every analyst had an opinion on who should have made the team. Personally, my writing was based on the fact, that with so much experience and hockey knowledge, Lowe and the other managers knew what they were doing and the second-guessing of their selections was unnecessary. With so many backseat-drivers complimenting and criticizing their selections, I was surprised to learn that the managers did take in to consideration the speculations of the media when selecting their roster.

“It makes it interesting and there is value to it,” said Lowe regarding the speculations. “I can’t say that we disregard it totally; a lot of the media guys watch the players quite often too and they have opinions about the players. The good thing about our position (as managers), is that we didn’t have any barriers for selections, there were no salary cap issues; we could just take the best players or the players we thought would make the best possible team.”

During the Games, the play of Dallas Stars forward Brenden Morrow, as well as Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers caught my eye. On a team with so many All-Stars from the NHL, I asked Lowe if any players surprised him during the tournament.

“All the players were expected to perform at a certain level, so the fact that they played well was not a surprise,” confided Lowe. “Brenden Morrow, we expected to play the way that he did, although, you can never assume anything. He really opened the eyes of a lot of people as to what he brings to a hockey team. For me personally, the guy that I think surpassed, for what we could have hoped for was Jonathan Toews; his overall poise and play, offensively, defensively and physically - he’d be my number one guy.”

One final thought from my perspective as a writer, which I shared with Kevin... This was the first time during an International hockey competition that I had the opportunity and the pleasure of speaking with one of the managers before and after the tournament. While I was hoping for a Team Canada victory like everyone else in the nation, I was also secretly wishing, “Please win this for Kevin!”

After a good laugh, Lowe responded with, “Thanks Andrew - I appreciate that!”

In my writing career, it was my first “golden” moment, sharing a laugh with a six-time Stanley Cup Champion. Have a great sports day everyone.

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