Leeds Knights: Brandon Whistle backs coach dad Dave to bring out the best in his players

EVER since Dave Whistle was appointed as head coach at Leeds Knights back in May, he and his son Brandon have had plenty to talk about.

Saturday, 7th August 2021, 7:05 am
Brandon Whistle believes Leeds Knights' players will revel playing for his head coach dad, Dave in the 2021-22 NIHL National season. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.

The two will find themselves with even more time to continue those conversations after this week saw Whistle Jnr revealed as the Knights’ 12th addition to their roster for the 2021-22 season.

A constant theme running throughout those talks back home in British Columbia has been the enthusiasm with which Whistle Snr has for his new role.

The last time the 55-year-old former Belfast Giants coach was involved in senior hockey was back in 2014 when he took over at Cardiff Devils for a short-lived second spell.

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Dave Whistle enjoys a joke during Monday night's first-ever Leeds Knights' practice session.

Ever since, he has been involved in coaching minor hockey back in Canada, most recently with the Okanagan Hockey Academy, from where he has joined Leeds.

Another chance to coach in senior hockey is something Whistle Snr was keen for, according to his youngest son, who had plenty of helpful information of his own to pass on, having helped Telford Tigers win the NIHL National league and cup double in its inaugural 2019-20 season.

“He’s so pumped about this opportunity,” said 23-year-old Brandon. “I know he’s wanted to get back to head coaching for a while now.

“I don’t know if he has really tried to do so that hard at all, but I know that when the Leeds job first came up, he talked to me right away.

Dave Whistle gives instruction to his Leeds Knights players during last week's practice session at the team's Elland Road rink.

“He asked me about Leeds the place and what the level of hockey in NIHL National was like.

“He’s super-excited about it all. We’ve had conversations pretty much every day for the past month or so.

“He just loves hockey, that is his bread and butter, hockey coaching and he’s in the exact spot where he wants to be. I think he is going to love it.”

The Knights will be pushing ahead with a young roster come next month, led by some quality experience in the shape of Matty Davies and Sam Zajac but, regardless of age, Whistle believes the Knights’ players are in the best hands.

Brandon Whistle, right, chats with Sam Gospel, during a game between Leeds and Telford back in November 2019. The two will be team-mates this season. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.

“Getting people to buy in is one of his biggest strengths,” he added. “His recruitment is next level, too.

“Coaching-wise, he’s very good at adjusting. For example, he’ll see how one shift is going and change it up accordingly – he’s very good on the fly.

“Guys will love playing for him, he’ll give a lot to players and let them play with a bit of freedom as well, which is a nice thing to have and quite rare.

“When you have the freedom to be creative, it allows everybody to play better hockey and that will help getting a lot of the guys to buy in, playing a more fun style of hockey – I think they’ll love it.”

Monday night saw head coach Whistle get to meet some of his charges during a first-ever Knights’ practise session at the team’s Elland Road rink.

There will be a further session on Tuesday but, hours before, Whistle Snr will have been on the ice with youngsters at the first-ever Okanagan Hockey Camp to be staged there, the product of the Swindon-based UK offshoot of the organisation he worked at in Penticton for the last few years.

And whether it be seniors, juniors, or outright beginners, it seems Whistle is just happy coaching.

“He’s been working at the Okanagan Hockey Academy for the last however many years and he’s been at the rink seven hours a day coaching juniors,” added Brandon.

“I just think that he has a lot of knowledge about the game and he just wants to pass that on to as many people as he can.

“If you asked him, he’d love to see every kid that he coaches play at the highest level of hockey that they possibly can, whether they want to play professionally or just for fun with their friends.

“He’s a guy that will help any player to improve if they want to and help any player get to the next level if they want to. He knows what it takes.

“He’s always smiling when he’s at the rink, always having fun. He just loves hockey.”