Sam Gospel believes Leeds Knights now an attractive destination for quality players
SAM GOSPEL is confident the appointment of Dave Whistle will make Leeds Knights an attractive proposition for players.
The experienced 55-year-old Canadian was revealed as the NIHL National outfit’s new head coach and general manager 10 days ago by new team owner Steve Nell
Whistle, currently coaching youngsters at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, British Columbia, brings with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise to West Yorkshire ahead of an eagerly-anticipated 2021-22 campaign.
He coached both Bracknell Bees and then Belfast Giants to Superleague titles in the early part of the century, while he also added a playoff trophy to the silverware cabinet during his three-year stint in Northern Ireland.
He also coached at Cardiff Devils and Sheffield Steelers and - but for one brief stint back in South Wales in 2014 - has spent the majority of his time working as a development coach back home in his native Canada.
Whistle’s appointment by the Knights certainly caught a few people by surprise, including the three players already announced as playing for next season, goaltender Gospel, defenceman Lewis Baldwin and forward Kieran Brown.
Gospel and Baldwin have been in on the Elland Road project from the very start, first signed by Leeds Chiefs’ player-coach Sam Zajac ahead of their debut NIHL National season in 2019-20, while Brown was signed up ready to play the following year, only for that campaign to be wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.
Team owner Nell is known to have made further signings, one of which is expected to be announced this week, with Whistle already hard at work analysing what he needs to those players already part of his roster.
And Gospel is confident his new boss’s reputation alone will help attract the right kind of player to Leeds.
“I’m excited to see who Dave brings in - I’m sure he’s got a lot of pull in terms of players,” said the 27-year-old netminder.
“If I was a younger player, say a kid in the Elite League, and maybe looking for a team to go to for some game time, to me that would be Leeds and largely because of Dave.
“He’s clearly a good coach, clearly a good GM, has loads of connections and, from what I’ve heard, knows how to get the best out of everyone. That will be invaluable in terms of recruitment because he’s been around a while and he will know players.
“And when you put that together with a team like the Knights, with an owner like Steve Nell, in a city like Leeds, all of a sudden it makes coming here very, very attractive.
“And with a rink that should be finished by the time the new season comes around and is effectively still new, that also adds to the attraction and makes Leeds a team that is, hopefully, going places.”
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