Moose coach driven to win

Claude Noel talks to reporters at a press conference Monday after the Manitoba Moose officially...

Claude Noel talks to reporters at a press conference Monday after the Manitoba Moose officially named him to lead them into the 2010-11 American Hockey League season. (KEN WIEBE/QMI Agency)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:30 PM ET

Claude Noel is happy to be driving the bus and he won’t be satisfied until he gets back to the top of the mountain.

The 54-year-old from Kirkland Lake, Ont., was officially unveiled as the sixth head coach of the Manitoba Moose at a press conference held Monday morning at the MTS Centre and the primary goal of his return to the American Hockey League is simple.

“If I’m going to have any joy, it has to come from success and success comes from winning,” said Noel, who takes over from Scott Arniel, the man who replaced him as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this month. “And winning comes from working in the right ways.”

Noel, who signed a three-year contract, has extensive experience as both a coach and a player.

He captured a Calder Cup as a player (with the Hershey Bears in 1980) and another as a head coach (with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2004). Noel’s Admirals also lost to the Bears in the Calder Cup final in 2006.

To put it bluntly, winning is what drives him.

“I’d like to go back (to the Calder Cup final) again,” said Noel, who compiled a record of 183-94-12-31 in four seasons with the Admirals before spending the past three seasons with the Blue Jackets, mostly as an assistant under Ken Hitchcock. “I’ve won a number of championships and it doesn’t matter what city you’re in. When you win, it’s a lot of fun and that’s what I like to do.”

As soon as Noel became available, he jumped to the top of the Moose wish list.

“Claude was a guy we had identified as the top candidate and we didn’t waver from that,” said Moose general manager Craig Heisinger. “He was the guy from Day 1, if he was available and if he was interested.”

Noel’s reputation of being able to balance winning and development made him a perfect fit for the Moose, who are still searching for their first championship in franchise history.

“The coach has to have the horses as well, but the one thing that strikes me about Claude is that his teams in Milwaukee (in the AHL) and Toledo (in the ECHL) always exceeded their expectations,” said Heisinger. “He’s a guy that got a lot of mileage out of people. That’s a great quality. He’s a good person, a hard-working guy and he fits the criteria to be the next coach of the Manitoba Moose.”

Noel isn’t about to shrink away from the expectations either.

“I’m not running from winning,” said Noel. “The end for e is always about winning the (Calder) Cup.”

When asked if he was a “player’s coach” Noel put it this way.

“I’m a serious coach. I’m intense, but I do know this is a fun sport and I like to have fun,” said Noel. “I like to have fun at the rink, on the ice but winning brings a lot of fun.

“As a coach, you have a choice: you can be in the trenches with the players or you can be above the trench barking down at the players. I choose to be in with the players, that doesn’t mean I’m in there with them and hanging out with them. There’s certainly a line there but I like to make the players feel that I have their best interest at heart. I don’t want to be on the outside looking in.”

Although personnel will play a large role in what system the Moose play, Noel’s preference is to play an aggressive, up-tempo game.

“I just like to get after teams and set the pace of the game,” said Noel. “We’re not going to be out of control. Aggression for me is to put your foot on the pedal and keep it on the pedal.”

The Moose also announced that Keith McCambridge and Rick St. Croix will remain on staff as assistant coaches.

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


Photos