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Gretzky’s priority not with Canadian Olympic team for now

Associated Press

The Canadian Olympic team is not counting on Wayne Gretzky, who has taken an indefinite leave with the Phoenix Coyotes to be with his ailing mother.

Gretzky is the hockey team’s executive director for the Turin Games. He announced Saturday he was putting his NHL coaching career on hold. His mother, Phyllis, is battling lung cancer.

“Our whole process here right now is to make sure everything is OK with Wayne and with his mom and that’s where our focus is,” Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson told the Canadian Press on Sunday from Calgary, Alberta. “I’ve talked to all of our other management people and we’ll just take it day by day here.”

“Wayne’s been the leader of this whole group but right now we’re not concerned with any of that, we’re just concerned about his mom and himself,” he added.

Gretzky also served as executive director of the 2002 Olympic team, which won Canada’s first gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years, as well as the 2004 team which captured the NHL’s World Cup of Hockey. But his mother’s illness kept him from overseeing the Canadian team at this year’s world hockey championship in May.

Gretzky addressed the Coyotes at the team hotel in Los Angeles on Saturday before flying to Ontario to join his family, which includes father Walter, sister Kim and brothers Brent, Glen and Keith.

“He’s back there right now and we expect to talk to him later today or tomorrow and sort of make a plan on what’s best for him and ultimately Hockey Canada,” Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, Gretzky’s assistant on Team Canada, told the CP from Edmonton, Alberta.

Team Canada is set to announce its Olympic roster Wednesday in Vancouver.

In Gretzky’s absence, associate coach Rick Tocchet assumed head coaching duties of the Coyotes. In his first season as an NHL coach, Gretzky has led the Coyotes to a 16-14-2 record and third place in the Pacific Division.

Avalanche 2, Rangers 1: At New York, Joe Sakic scored a pair of goals 19 seconds apart in the second period – the second on a penalty shot – and Colorado snapped a three-game losing streak with a victory over the Rangers.

Panthers 3, Capitals 2: At Washington, Roberto Luongo made a season-high 53 saves to help Florida end a 13-game road losing streak with a victory over the Capitals.

Stars 5, Blackhawks 3: At Chicago, Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen each had a goal and an assist in streaking Dallas’ victory over the Blackhawks.

Mighty Ducks 5, Sharks 4: At Anaheim, Calif., Rob Niedermayer scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period and the Mighty Ducks beat San Jose to snap the Sharks’ six-game winning streak. Todd Fedoruk ended a 49-game goal drought, and Anaheim’s Chris Kunitz scored the first short-handed goal of his career.

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