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  • Monday, April 3, 2000

    Coach shuns the spotlight

    By PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

      Melody Davidson is not as well known as predecessors Shannon Miller or Daniele Sauvageau, which may be a good thing.

     Davidson took over as coach of the national women's hockey team last April, replacing Sauvageau. Management made the move as part of its plan to develop new coaches. Sauvageau hopes to be reappointed when a decision is made -- likely next month -- on a coach leading to the 2002 Olympics.

     Sauvageau replaced Miller, who faced enormous pressure to try to guide Canada to a gold medal at the 1998 Olympics. The Canadians placed second to the United States and Miller took the brunt of the blame for the loss.

     So far, Davidson has been able to go about her business in relative obscurity.

     "I try to stay out of the spotlight," Davidson said as she prepared for Canada's opening game of the world women's hockey championship, tonight against Japan (Hershey Centre, 7:30 p.m., no TV). "I think the players are the story here. They're the ones doing the job. They're the ones doing the executing. We just lay the plans out. They do the job.

     "Working with the media has been fun. I don't think anything has been thrust on me. I haven't had any problem with it at all. I'm definitely excited, looking forward to the challenge of every game."

     The 36-year-old Alberta native, who also has been the coach at Connecticut College since its program began three years ago, frequently mentions the word fun when talking about her job with the national team and coaching in general.

     "Every day with these players and this team is a lot of fun," she said. "As long as we can keep up the fun part of it, just keep working toward every challenge, we're going to be pretty successful, I think.

     "It's always fun for me. I love coaching. I love being here. Teams are different. This team has been a lot of fun. We have some laughs all the time on the ice ... but we also know when to be serious, too. We switch gears quickly, enjoy it and jump back into some intensity, with some enjoyment of the intensity."

     Defenceman Cheryl Pounder said Davidson's strength is her knowledge of the game and her ability to translate it.

     "Basically she's pushing her players to get the best out of them," Pounder said.

     "There's a lot of respect for her and she's doing a good job. We're just listening to her and hope she's going to lead us there.

     "She's the head coach and what she says goes. That's the way we can sum it up. Everyone's feeling really comfortable, feeling really good about themselves right now. The coaching staff makes you feel that way now and I think that's a good way to feel going into the competition."

     Davidson has not announced whether Kim St-Pierre or Sami Jo Small will start in goal. The two split duties on Saturday -- with St- Pierre starting -- in Canada's 9-1 exhibition win over Sweden.



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