June 24, 2011 / 4:17 PM / 6 years ago

Winnipeg names Noel as team's first head coach

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The National Hockey League’s new Winnipeg franchise has named Claude Noel as their head coach, the team said on Friday.

Noel coached the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose last season, where he led the team to a 43-30-7 record and an appearance in the second round of the playoffs.

Prior to that, the 56-year-old was an assistant coach with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets for three seasons, including a stint as interim head coach for 24 games in 2010.

While Noel does not have a lengthy head coaching resume, the team said his experience at the AHL level gave him an edge in working with a young Winnipeg team.

“We have a group of players whose best years are ahead of him and we needed someone that can teach, someone that can bring them together, someone that can take the sum and make them greater,” Winnipeg General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told a news conference.

“We talked to a lot of the players that played for him ... they all said that ‘he held us accountable, he let us play, it was a fun place to pay, it was an environment that fostered learning and fostered team togetherness’ and for me that’s a key ingredient to winning a championship.”

Noel’s first regular-season game as head coach will be at home against the Montreal Canadiens on October 9. the game is sure to be an emotional one for the Manitoba capital as it will mark the first regular-season game there after a 15-year absence.

“You have to trust that your players are ready, you have to prepare them and don’t overcoach them. and just make them feel comfortable,” said Noel.

“My experience and demeanor is not one where I am going to make the players nervous and try to get them to win the Stanley cup in game one.”

Winnipeg, the NHL’s smallest market, was home to the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association before the team joined the NHL in 1979.

The Jets played for 17 years in the NHL before moving to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1996 because of financial losses related to an outdated arena, spiraling NHL salaries and a weak Canadian dollar.

Earlier this week the NHL formally approved the sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden

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