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Dan Church resigns as Canada women’s hockey coach

Dec 12, 2013, 3:44 PM EDT

Hayley Wickenheiser, Charline Labonte, Lauriane Rougeau, Rebecca Johnston AP

Canada’s women’s hockey team is on a three-game winning streak against the U.S., will play the Americans on Thursday night and are preparing for the Olympics in two months.

Now, the three-time reigning Olympic champions must replace their head coach.

Dan Church abruptly resigned for personal reasons Thursday, according to Hockey Canada. Assistants Danielle Goyette and Lisa Haley will be interim co-coaches. Church later said he resigned because he felt others lacked confidence in him.

“If there isn’t confidence in what I’m doing, I need to step aside and let the team move on,” Church said, according to The Canadian Press. “I’m heartbroken, to be honest, about the whole situation.”

Church said Hockey Canada did not try to persuade him to stay on.

“Just discussions I’d had over the last few days made that apparent, in some meetings I’d had with leadership,” Church, 40, told The Canadian Press. “I think it was just difference of opinion on the direction we were headed. In the end, I just decided if I’m getting in the way of where the team needs to go, I need to step aside and let them continue on in the process.”

Canada is playing the U.S. in Calgary, Alberta, later Thursday night.

“I would like to thank Hockey Canada for the opportunity to reach my goal of coaching and winning gold at the international level,” Church said, according to a press release. “I wish the players and staff all the best going forward. I have understood from the beginning of this process that winning gold in Sochi was this team’s only focus. I believe that stepping aside for personal reasons at this time will help the team achieve its goal.”

Church guided Canada to the 2012 World Championship and silver at this year’s World Championship in Ottawa.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Press reported Goyette and Haley ran practice as Church tended to “a personal matter,” according to Hockey Canada.

“We understand that this was a very difficult decision for Dan,” Hockey Canada women’s national teams general manager Melody Davidson said. “We are certainly very appreciative that he came to this conclusion with the best interests of the team in mind.”

Canada beats U.S. women’s hockey again at Four Nations Cup

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