CW alums Desjardins, King named to Hockey Canada's Olympic staff

Willie Desjardins (left) and Dave King (right) are set to help guide Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Willie Desjardins (left) and Dave King (right) are set to help guide Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Evan Daum, Canada West Communications

EDMONTON – A pair of coaches who got their start in Canada West are headed to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Former University of Calgary Dinos head coach Willie Desjardins along with former Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Dave King were announced Tuesday to Hockey Canada's coaching staff for the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Desjardins, who most recently spent three seasons as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, will lead the Canadian contingent at the Olympics, while King, who served as an assistant for Canada at the most recent World Championships in Paris and Cologne, will be an assistant. 

The pair are no strangers, as their relationship dates back nearly four decades to when King coached Desjardins at the University of Saskatchewan between 1979 and 1984. During their time in Saskatoon, the tandem helped the Huskies to the 1983 national championship in Moncton, where Desjardins was named tournament MVP.

Desjardins, who wrapped up his career as a Huskie in 1985, was a Canada West conference all-star four times and was conference player of the year in 1982-83. He finished his Huskies career as the program's top scorer, registering 68 goals, 121 assists and 189 points in 121 games and was twice named the Huskies male athlete of the year (1981 and 1983).

After his playing career, Desjardins quickly transitioned into coaching, becoming an assistant to George Kingston at the University of Calgary in 1985. After Kingston left the program following the 1987-88 season, Desjardins took over behind the Calgary bench. Over his six seasons leading the Dinos, Desjardins captured the conference title in 1990 and posted a combined 113 wins, 44 losses, and 11 ties in 168 conference games.

Desjardins has seen his share of success since his Canada West days concluded, going on to win championships in both the Western Hockey League (2003-04 and 2006-07 / Medicine Hat) and American Hockey League (2013-14 / Texas Stars), before his three seasons at the NHL level in Vancouver.

In addition to these successes, Desjardins also has plenty of international experience, having represented Canada as head coach in 2010 (silver) and assistant coach in 2009 (gold) at the World Junior Championships. He was also an assistant coach for the Canadian national men's team in 1998-99, when the team finished fourth at the 1999 IIHF World Championship in Norway. 

For King, 2018 will mark his latest Olympic Games, after serving as Canada's head coach at the 1984 Games in Sarajevo (fourth), 1988 Calgary Games (fourth), and 1992 Albertville Games (third).

The former Calgary Flames (1992-93 to 1994-95) and Columbus Blue Jackets (2000-01 to 2002-03) head coach also coached the Canadian national junior team to gold in 1982 and bronze in 1983. 

Along with the announcement of Desjardins and King to the staff, Hockey Canada also unveiled Sean Burke as the team's general manager.

The work to prepare Canada for 2018 begins right away, as Canada's Olympic candidates first get together to play in the Sochi Hockey Open, Aug. 5-9, as well as the Nikolai Puchkov Tournament in St. Petersburg, Aug. 14-17.

The 2018 Winter Olympics men's hockey tournament begins on Feb. 9 and concludes with the gold-medal game on Feb. 25.