Potential Leeds Knights recruits need to possess all-round qualities says Dave Whistle

AS Dave Whistle spends the next few weeks and months piecing together his Leeds Knights roster, his final decision won’t purely be based on what a potential recruit is capable of doing on the ice.

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 6:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 7:50 am
Dave Whistle, coaching youngsters at the Okanagan Hockey Academy. Picture courtesy of OHA.

It will be the impact they have in the locker room, the way they interact with their team-mates and how they generally behave off the ice that will matter just as much to the head coach.

The 55-year-old will inherit a core group of signings already made by team owner Steve Nell who was keen to ensure that he got a number of key personnel in place before they were tempted away elsewhere.

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GOOD RECRUITER: Whistle on the bench with Todd Kelman, right, during Belfast Giants' Super league-winning season in 2002. Picture: Michael Cooper/Getty Images

Whistle is comfortable with all the signings made by Nell – a number of which are yet to be announced – and, not surprisingly given his experience behind the bench, he is confident he can get the best out of each player coming under his wing.

He has already made a start on adding to the roster but, with three months until pre-season even begins, time is on his side.

Having spent the last seven years working back home in Canada, mainly at the Okanagan Hockey Academy, Whistle won’t be as familiar with the British game as he once was, most notably when leading Bracknell Bees and Belfast Giants to Superleague titles in 2000 and 2002 respectively.

But his experiences, both here and in North America, mean that he has the contacts to do the necessary research on players. A submitted cv and an agent selling his client’s qualities will get a player so far, but word of mouth from trusted sources and references remains, for many coaches and GMs, the most reliable kind of information when considering a roster addition.

Leeds Knights' head coach, Dave Whistle.

What Whistle will not tolerate are any bad apples, priding himself on his recruitment record over the years, at all levels of the game.

“I usually try and sign really good guys, good people,” explained Whistle. “I know everybody tries to do it, but I’ve never had to fire anybody the whole time I’ve coached.

“I always do a lot of research on them as a person, as much as how they are as a player. There are a lot of good players – you can always get really good players – but you want them to be a good person too.

Todd Kelman, managing director of Cardiff Devils, played under Dave Whistle at Bracknell and Belfast, winning a Superleague title with each team. Picture courtesy of Scott Wiggins/EIHL.

“It only takes a few calls to find out about a particular player and what they are really like as a person.

“It’s quite easy these days to find out if a particular player is a bad apple. For me, it’s as much about what they bring off the ice as on the ice.”

The recruitment skills Whistle possesses is verified by Todd Kelman, a defenceman who played under Whistle at Bracknell and Belfast for five years and is now managing director at Cardiff Devils.

“He’s a great recruiter and he knows how to get the most out of players,” said Kelman.

“He’ll be very happy back in a head coaching role in the UK – I think that’s always been the place that he has had the most success and maybe the most passion for the game.”

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