Winnipeg hires Claude Noel as coach
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Winnipeg introduced a new head coach and had the seventh pick in the NHL draft.
But the biggest news of the day came when the franchise formally brought back the old nickname: the Jets.
Claude Noel was hired as coach of the transplanted franchise Friday, returning to the NHL and joining a team that has missed the playoffs the last four seasons. The Atlanta Thrashers moved north across the border earlier this month.
Burnside: Jets' future begins at draft
Mark Scheifele's selection by the Winnipeg Jets with the seventh overall pick represents a new future, a new beginning for a franchise that has known little but disappointment and disinterest in a decade in Atlanta, writes Scott Burnside. Story
Just before the selection of center Mark Scheifele, team chairman Mark Chipman spilled the poorly kept secret as he turned to general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to make the pick "on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets."
That drew cheers and "Go Jets go!" chants from the dozens of fans wearing white T-shirts with the old red-and-blue Jets logo.
Noel was an interim head coach in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He coached the Manitoba Moose last season in the American Hockey League, leading them to a 43-40-1-6 record.
"Claude is someone that can teach, bring players together as a group, make the sum better than the whole of their parts," Cheveldayoff said at a news conference before the NHL draft.
Before moving to Manitoba he spent three years with the Blue Jackets, first as an assistant and then as head coach after Ken Hitchcock was fired in February 2010. He did not get the job when the season ended. He has also coached in the ECHL and IHL. But now he is where he wants to be.
"There was a lot of emotion," Noel said. "You know, I've gone through this process a few times and I'm a little older and I thought, 'Jeez, I hope my day's coming.' I thought my day would come and I can't tell you how happy I am."
Noel was shopping with his family when Cheveldayoff called with the news Wednesday night.
"I can't wait to get started," he said.
The 55-year-old Noel was chosen over Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland, who has worked with Cheveldayoff. Noel and assistant GM Craig Heisinger spent last year with the Moose.
Haviland "was a qualified candidate," Cheveldayoff said. "I know him personally after obviously winning a Stanley Cup championship with him. But in this situation here, you have to take personal relationships out of it. He was very professional, he was extremely thankful for the opportunity.
"Again, when Zinger and I sat down and went to the final conclusion, we said, 'We don't think we can make a bad choice here.' We just think that this is the right choice for moving forward."
Noel said he has a few candidates in mind for assistants and hopes to sign them quickly.
"It's really important that you make sure you get people that are loyal and you can trust," he said. "Because we are going to have to dig in as a staff, there is no question that we're going to have some areas we're going to have to dig in. We're going to have to find some solutions."
The Thrashers were coached by Craig Ramsay last season and finished 34-36-12, fourth in the Southeast Division.
The original Jets joined the NHL in 1979 after the World Hockey Association folded. They played in Manitoba until 1996, when the franchise moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes.
Scheifele was the 16th-ranked North American skater by the NHL's Central Scouting Service. He led OHL rookies with 53 assists last season, playing for the Barrie Colts.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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