Armstrong named GM for Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team


St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. (Jeff Roberson/CP)

Doug Armstrong felt the tinge of disappointment.

The St. Louis Blues executive, however, was more concerned about his players.

Tabbed to pick Canada’s men’s team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, Armstrong was well down that path when the NHL pulled the plug on its participation just over six weeks before the opening ceremony because of COVID-19 concerns.

“Getting to know some of the leadership group and not having that opportunity for them to realize their dreams was difficult,” Armstrong said.

“We’ve waited a while and now we’re excited to be back at it.”

Hockey Canada announced Friday the Sarnia, Ont., product will get another crack at the Games, naming him general manager for the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina, Italy.

“The competition is going to be great,” Armstrong said on a video conference call with reporters. “We can’t guarantee victory, but we can guarantee the work ethic and the thought process.”

The Blues president and GM got the nod as part of a management team that also includes former Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

“An opportunity of a lifetime for myself to grow in the game and learn and get Canada back to where I know it to be,” Getzlaf said. “My mindset is to try and bridge the gap between player and management.”

Armstrong helped St. Louis capture the 2019 Stanley Cup after winning Olympic gold in 2010 and 2014 as a member of Canada’s backroom staff.

The 59-year-old’s resume also includes a victory at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey as GM.

Armstrong has a wealth of talent to choose from for 2026 — including Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Connor Bedard — but said his group will use all the time available to pick the right roster.

“There’s going to be a lot of mock teams selected by our 30 million-plus assistant GMs,” Armstrong said of Canada’s hockey-mad population. “When you work for Hockey Canada … we start on third base, but we still have to get home.

“Our job is to get from third to home.”

Getzlaf, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and 2007 Cup winner with Anaheim, will try to help Canada get there as a player relations adviser.

“I’ve sat in those locker rooms a short time ago with a lot of these guys, been on the ice against them,” said the 38-year-old, who retired following the 2021-22 season. “Bridge that gap and manage the expectation between the two in understanding what the modern player needs as opposed to more of the old-school type mentality.”

The management team also includes Hockey Canada president/CEO Katherine Henderson, vice-president of hockey operations Scott Salmond and chief operating officer Pat McLaughlin.

As part of the lead-in to 2026, and with an eye toward gathering as much information as possible, Armstrong will appoint and work alongside the GMs for Canada’s entries at this year’s world hockey championships, the 2025 NHL 4 Nations Face-Off and the 2025 worlds.

“An opportunity for diversity in thought (and) an opportunity to evaluate staff and evaluate players like we’ve never had before,” Salmond said. “Our goal is to win every time we put a Canadian team on the ice.”

Armstrong said he expects to name the GM for the upcoming worlds within the next two weeks, and executive for the 4 Nations Face-Off before the start of the NHL playoffs.

“We want to use time as an ally as we move forward,” he said.

Salmond said Hockey Canada was comfortable going back to Armstrong, who will be just the third GM of the country’s NHLers at an Olympics after Wayne Gretzky and Steve Yzerman, for a variety of reasons.

“Character, integrity — two things that come to mind right away,” Salmond said. “His ability to connect with people and his experience around our programs, in particular understanding those players and what it takes to win, I think sets him apart.”

The 2026 Games will be the first Olympics with NHL players in 12 years — the last time men’s hockey saw a true best-on-best tournament.

The league went to the Games five times between 1998 and 2014 before skipping the 2018 event in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for financial reasons. The pandemic then scuttled plans for a return in 2022 in Beijing.

Armstrong is keen to get back — this time in Canada’s big chair.

“You understand the stage that you’re on,” he said. “You understand that hockey is a part of something.

“Part of something much bigger.”

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