Leeds Knights former coach Dave Whistle relishing opportunity with Nottingham Panthers

FORMER Leeds Knights head coach Dave Whistle says he is excited to be back in the game - after joining the coaching staff of Elite League team Nottingham Panthers.

NEW CHALLENGE: Dave Whistle, behind the bench during his time as head coach of Leeds Knights. Picture: James Hardisty
NEW CHALLENGE: Dave Whistle, behind the bench during his time as head coach of Leeds Knights. Picture: James Hardisty

The 56-year-old Canadian surprisingly left the Knights in January after less than five months at the helm, owner Steve Nell deciding he wanted a new voice behind the bench.

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Former Swindon Wildcats and Basingstoke Bison coach Ryan Aldridge was drafted in to replace Whistle, who was given the option of remaining in just a GM role, one which he declined.

Nottingham Panthers' player-coach, Mark Matheson. Picture: Karl Denham/EIHL

He briefly returned to Canada to consider his options, several of which were in the UK and, after talks with Panthers’ director of hockey Guillaume Doucet, player-coach Mark Matheson and owner Neil Black, Whistle was heading back to the UK in time to watch Saturday’s home clash with Glasgow Clan.

He watched from the executive boxes with Doucet as the Panthers lost out 2-1 when the Clan’s Braylon Shmyr scored 48 seconds into overtime and is expected to do so again when the Panthers host Fife on Sunday afternoon.

From Monday, he will assist Matheson at training during the week & be behind the bench on game days. Matheson stepped up to become player-coach, with assistance from fellow D-man Stephen Lee, when the Panthers sacked Tim Wallace in early January.

It will be Whistle’s first time working in the Elite League since the end of the 2013-14 season when he coached Cardiff Devils for a second, shorter spell having first worked in South Wales between 2004-06.

Brandon Whistle , in action for Leeds Knights earlier this season. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

“It’s great to be back in the game so soon after leaving Leeds,” said Whistle. “Joining the Panthers for the remainder of the season is an exciting opportunity.

“It’s a big organisation and one that is always striving for success. I’m looking forward to working with both Guillaume and Mark on a daily basis to help the team finish the regular season strongly as we head into the playoffs.”

Whistle’s son Brandon played is spending the weekend playing with the Sheffield Steelers - despite parent club Leeds also being in action. Previously when the two clubs have both been playing on the same night, Whistle has remained in NIHL National with the Knights.

But this weekend marks a significant change in priority for both clubs and the player, meaning he is likely to be on the opposite bench to his dad when the Steelers and the Panthers next meet on Saturday, February 26 in Nottingham.

Doucet said Whistle brought with him the kind of experience on the bench that the Panthers were in need of, his arrival allowing the injured Lee to step back from his temporary assistant role on the bench to continue his recovery from injury.

“Dave brings a wealth of experience to the room & bench with him & we’ve not had that since Rick Strachan retired,” he said. “He’s seen it all & won multiple championships here in the UK. He’s going to help Mark out a lot and will also give Stevie the chance to focus more on his rehab.”