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U.S. women’s hockey head coach steps down before world championship camp

Bob Corkum

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Head coach Bob Corkum of USA looks open against Canada in the second period of the Rivalry Series hockey match at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Saturday, February 8, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

MediaNews Group via Getty Images

U.S. women’s hockey head coach Bob Corkum stepped down, citing coronavirus protocol concerns three weeks before the world championship tournament and on the eve of the team’s pre-worlds training camp.

“I was not comfortable with the protocols,” Corkum wrote in a text sent to The Associated Press on Saturday without specifying his concerns. “It was a difficult decision to make, but one that I am at peace with. The team will not miss a beat. They are in great hands.”

Assistant Joel Johnson was announced as interim head coach on Friday night ahead of worlds that start May 6 in Nova Scotia.

USA Hockey gave no further details regarding the departure of Corkum, the head coach since October 2018.

“Bob put his heart and soul into continuing to build on the legacy of our women’s national team program over the past three seasons, and we’re grateful for all he did,” Katie Million, director of women’s national team programs for USA Hockey, said in a press release. “While he’s stepping away, he’ll always be a big part of the USA Hockey family, and we’ll certainly miss him.”

Last weekend, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association — which includes members of the U.S. national team — postponed its Dream Gap Tour stop in St. Louis as a result of players being exposed to the virus.

The St. Louis stop followed a national team evaluation camp held 10 days earlier in Minnesota. USA Hockey would not say whether any of its players tested positive.

Corkum, who played in the NHL for 12 seasons, succeeded Robb Stauber as head coach after the U.S. won the Olympics in 2018.

With Corkum, the U.S. won its fifth consecutive world championship in 2019. He was to coach the 2020 World Championship team, but that tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Corkum was listed as head coach on March 30 when the U.S. roster for this year’s worlds was announced.

The U.S. begins its pre-worlds training camp on Saturday in Maine.

Johnson is a longtime member of the University of Minnesota coaching staff. He also led U.S. under-18 teams to four consecutive world titles before joining the senior national team as an assistant to Corkum in 2018.

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone like Joel to step in and guide our team at the world championship,” Million said in a release. “He’s been an important part of our program and is well positioned to help build on the success we’ve enjoyed.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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