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Lucky Luc looking forward to first management experience with Team Canada

Even though time has moved on and their playing days are behind them, some things haven't changed for Steve Yzerman and Luc Robitaille.

The two future Hall of Famers got together Thursday to formulate a plan now that each has been named to Canada's management team for the upcoming IIHF World Hockey Championship in Quebec City and Halifax.

Sitting around and talking hockey is nothing new for Yzerman and Robitaille. The former Detroit Red Wings teammates once had locker stalls next to one another in the dressing room at Joe Louis Arena and would spend hours together discussing the game.

"We would talk a lot and share our experiences and talk about players and our vision," Robitaille told The Canadian Press from Detroit. "We always kind of agreed on everything.

"We had the same vision on players and building a team. I think that's one of the reasons he wanted to work with me."

Yzerman is Canada's general manager at the event for a second straight year and asked Robitaille and Doug Armstrong to be his assistants.

He extended the invitation to Robitaille after an NHL Board of Governors meeting during last month's all-star game in Atlanta. Robitaille, now the Los Angeles Kings president of business operations, accepted immediately.

The pair won a Stanley Cup together in 2002 and are eager to build a gold-medal winner in 2008.

"I'm very excited to have him on the staff," Yzerman said earlier this week. "He has a great passion for the game. When I first talked to him about being a part of the program, he was in 100 per cent and showed great enthusiasm.

"He has international experience and experience in all types of hockey."

Robitaille has also settled nicely into the board room.

Like Yzerman, he retired after the 2005-06 season and accepted a position working as an assistant to Kings governor Tim Leiweke. Robitaille moved up to his current role of president last May and is loving his second career.

"It's been a great opportunity and something I thoroughly enjoy," he said. "To see that there's 50 or 60 people behind the scenes that really care. I never knew that as a player - that that many people worked on the team.

"To see that these people really feel the losses and the wins and feel the success of the franchise, it kind of gives me a boost every day."

When it comes to working for Team Canada, Robitaille doesn't lack for motivation.

Lucky Luc scored the gold medal-winning goal in a shootout for the Canadian team at the 1994 world championship in Italy. He counts it among his fondest memories.

Robitaille remembers coaches George Kingston and Tom Renney stressing to the team how important it was that they bring home gold because a Canadian squad hadn't done so since 1961.

"Even though we were having fun, guys really took it seriously," he said. "Suddenly there was like a certain pride and we were saying, 'Hey, let's go for it. Let's really win it this year.'

"It was great to be the first team to do it in 33 years and it brought a lot of excitement. And since then, Canada's won many times."

Robitaille believes the biggest reason for that is higher expectations.

He says there was a time when Canada's world championship team wasn't held to the same high standards of other national teams. That culture has long since changed.

"When you represent Canada now, you can't win the silver medal," said Robitaille.

The management team and staff at Hockey Canada are already working hard to ensure that this Canadian team has every possible chance to win a second straight gold medal. The world championship is being held here for the first time ever and no host has won since Russia in 1986.

The prep work needed to assemble the best possible coaching staff and roster means a lot of extra hours for guys like Yzerman and Robitaille. They're embracing that commitment.

"To do anything right you've got to spend some time and be able to make an effort to really focus on it," said Robitaille. "I definitely think it's going to take a little bit of time. But I'm OK with it - it's a great experience."

He had such a great time as a player at the 1994 tournament that he kept all his gear from the event - everything from his helmet to his gloves and skates. The idea was to display it along with the gold medal in a special room at his home.

Unfortunately, it's still packed away.

"It's not on display yet," said Robitaille. "I'm going to build a room one day."

By then, he might just have another gold medal to display along with it.


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