Tony Care - Thursday Dec. 12, 2013 19:31 ET

Dan Church’s resignation doesn’t pass the smell test

Cassie Campbell-Pascall thinks Hockey Canada pushed coach out

There's more than meets the eye to Dan Church's resignation, according to former women's hockey star Cassie Campbell-Pascall. (Courtesy Hockey Canada)

Dan Church’s dream was to be the head coach of Canada’s women’s hockey team at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

That dream was squashed Thursday after Church gave his shocking resignation in Calgary, hours before Canada was to play the U.S., in its third of six exhibition games ahead of the Sochi Olympics in February.

So why would a coach with less than two months to go before the start of the biggest tournament of his career abruptly resign?

Hockey Canada said Church’s decision to quit was for “personal reasons.”

Hockey Night in Canada analyst Cassie Campbell-Pascall isn’t buying it.

“I think that there probably was a conversation behind the scenes [with Hockey Canada] that maybe the team wasn’t going in the right direction, or they felt they didn’t have the gold-medal staff,” Campbell-Pascall told CBC Olympics.

Campbell-Pascall spoke with Church shortly after Hockey Canada’s press conference in Calgary. Church was not in attendance, but was obviously heartbroken when he chatted with Campbell-Pascall — a sentiment he expressed on Twitter hours before the official announcement. 

Campbell-Pascall believes a conversation had to take place between Church and Hockey Canada executives that may have included president Bob Nicholson, chief operating officer Scott Smith, and general manager Melody Davidson.

“I would have to guess that there was,” said Campbell-Pascall. "I know Dan. I know the fact that he has worked his entire career for this moment to be a head coach at the Olympic Games. And so I have to feel that there had to be a factor behind the scenes that led to him to resign, and led him to feel that this is the right decision for the program. 

“Whether that was a conversation with members of Hockey Canada, I don’t know for sure, but I just know him and I know that was his dream come true to be the head coach of Team Canada. So I can’t believe that this decision was made singularly by him.”

Church hired in 2012

Church was hired to a two-year contract in June 2012 after leading Canada to a world title that same year. But the Canadians suffered a heart-breaking 3-2 defeat to the U.S. in Ottawa at the world championship this past April.

As part of the process in selecting the Olympic team, Church and the rest of Hockey Canada’s brain trust cut three players in November — defencemen Tessa Bonhomme and Brigette Lacquette, along with forward Jenelle Kohanchuk. Bonhomme's departure raised some eyebrows as she was a member of Canada's 2010 Olympic gold-medal team.

Who will be the next head coach?

The attention now turns to finding a coach to guide Canada into Sochi. Danielle Goyette and Lisa Haley were named interim co-coaches Thursday.

Hockey Canada could look outside the box and hire a former NHL head coach, a move Campbell-Pascall would endorse.

However, there’s someone already on the bench that she believes the Hockey Canada execs should also consider.

“I think Danielle Goyette is very capable of being the head coach,” Campbell-Pascall said of her former teammate, three-time Olympic champion and IIHF Hall of Fame.

“I’ve played with her, I know how much respect she has from the girls, I know how knowledgeable she is about the game. She’s done a great job with the University of Calgary [as head coach]. She is very capable of being the head coach."

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