Claude Noel named Winnipeg NHL team's coach

Claude Noel is officially named the first head coach of Winnipeg's new NHL franchise.

Claude Noel is the head coach of Winnipeg's new NHL franchise, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff announced Friday at a news conference in Minneapolis, Minn., ahead of the league's draft.

"Claude is someone that can teach, bring players together as a group, make the sum better than the whole of their parts," said Cheveldayoff.

Noel coached the AHL's Manitoba Moose last season, posting a 43-40-1-6 record.

He spent three years with the Columbus Blue Jackets, including a stint as bench boss after Ken Hitchcock was fired in February 2010.

Noel also spent time coaching in the ECHL and IHL.

"When I got the news, I was extremely excited," said Noel, who was shopping with his family Wednesday night when Cheveldayoff called to deliver the good news. "There was a lot of emotion. You know, I've gone through this process a few times and I'm a little older and I thought, 'Jeez, I hope my day's coming.' I thought my day would come and I can't tell you how happy I am."

Although his head coaching stint in Columbus was brief, Noel never stopped doubting he would one day land a job only 29 other men currently hold.

"When I didn't get the job in Columbus, there was disappointment like anybody would be," he said. "I just sort of held on to my own inner confidence and thought 'my day will come, I've just to got to continue to try to do a good job and try to do some good work.'"

Cheveldayoff believes the time Noel, 55, spent in the AHL will serve him well when the team kicks off its first regular season in 15 years against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 9.

"We have a group of players whose best years are ahead of them and we needed someone that  can teach, someone that can bring them together, someone that can take the sum and make them greater," Cheveldayoff said. 

"We talked to a lot of the players that played for him … they all said that 'he held us  accountable, he let us play, it was a fun place to pay, it was an environment that fostered learning and fostered team togetherness' and for me that's a key ingredient to winning a championship."

Coincidently, Noel was selected over Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland, who had worked with Cheveldayoff before.

"[Haviland] was a qualified candidate," said Cheveldayoff. "I know him personally after obviously winning a Stanley Cup championship with him. But in this situation here, you have to take personal relationships out of it. He was very professional, he was extremely thankful for the opportunity.

"Again, when Zinger and I sat down and went to the final conclusion, we said 'we don't think we can make a bad choice here.' We just think that this is the right choice for moving forward."

Assistant general manager Craig Heisinger and Noel worked together with the Moose last season, but the hiring only comes after Cheveldayoff and Heisinger sat down for interviews with other potential candidates.

Noel said he hasn't made any decisions on who will make up his coaching staff, but knows the attributes that make a good assistant.

"I think it's really important that you make sure you get people that are loyal and you can trust," Noel said. "Because we are going to have to dig in as a staff, there is no question that we're going have some areas we're going to have to dig in. We're going to have to find some solutions."

The NHL club, which is owned by True North Sports & Entertainment, can now turn its attention to Friday night's draft, where just hours before the event it was revealed that Winnipeg's NHL team will be called the Winnipeg Jets, CBC Sports has confirmed.

With files from The Canadian Press