Leeds Knights coach Dave Whistle favours open and honest approach with players ahead of 2021-22 NIHL National season

DAVE WHISTLE says an upfront and honest approach from the outset will leave his Leeds Knights players in no doubt as to the expectations of them when NIHL National hockey returns in September.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 5:49 am
Dave Whistle, pictured on the Cardiff Devils bench during the 2013-14 EIHL season. Picture courtesy of Cardiff Devils/Richard Murray.

The 55-year-old Canadian is due to land in the UK later this month in preparation for the 2021-22 season which will get underway with a cup competition in early September, with the regular league season launching a month later.

So far, Whistle has nine players signed up on his roster, a solid core who either previously played for Leeds Chiefs or who were signed up for the 2020-21 campaign that never took place because of the pandemic.

Ahead of the first games, Whistle will hold a number of practice sessions at Elland Road Ice Rink with his players, where he will quickly assess their strengths and weaknesses and work out what he believes will be the most productive line combinations.

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PREPARATIONS: Steve Nell, owner of Leeds Knights. Picture: Steve Riding.

Then, as he has done throughout his entire coaching career - regardless of what level - he will hold one-on-one meetings with the players to discuss both his and their own expectations from the season ahead.

“I’ll be coming in and treating every single person on that roster as an equal,” said Whistle, who last coached in senior hockey back in 2013-14 when he returned to Elite League Cardiff Devils for a short, second spell. “I don’t care if they are the best player or the worst player, they are going to play unless they do something that I don’t really care for.

“I have individual meetings at the beginning of the year to lay out what I expect from the players and, hopefully, hear back what they expect from me.

“I find that, generally, if you’re up front with everybody at the very start, telling them the truth then most players are happy with that situation - they know what to work on, or what they are good at or how I’m going to operate with them as a player.

Assistant coach Glenn Baldwin helped run the Leeds Chiefs' bench on match nights during the team's 2019-20 NIHL National season.

“I liked that when coaches did that with me, telling you where they saw you fitting in - at least I knew in advance what I needed to work on in order to move up a line or something.

“I find an open and honest approach at the very start from me is what players appreciate and they know where they stand.”

Whistle said he was also open to the possibility of having an assistant coach on the bench with him next season, although this was one of a number of areas he would wait to discuss with team owner Steve Nell once he landed in the UK.

During the Leeds Chiefs’ sole campaign back in 2019-20, player-coach Sam Zajac relied on assistant coach Glenn Baldwin to run the bench on match nights, but it’s not known that whether that arrangement will continue under the new regime.

“It would depend on who is available and stuff like that,” added Whistle.

“I haven’t definitely made up my mind on things like that and Steve and I will go over things like that when I get over there, so we’ll see what happens.

“I would love to have somebody on the bench with me, I do enjoy having somebody else on there.

“It’s always good to have another coach on the bench to bounce ideas off.”