Former Belfast Giants, Bracknell Bees, Cardiff Devils and Sheffield Steelers coach Dave Whistle back in UK hockey as new Leeds ice hockey boss

STEVE NELL has issued a signal of his intent and ambition for ice hockey in Leeds after appointing Dave Whistle as the team’s head coach and general manager.

NEW FACE: Dave Whistle, pictured on the bench at Cardiff in 2014, has been apppointed as head coach and GM at Leeds. Picture courtesy of Richard Murray/Cardiff Devils.

Whistle is a man well-known throughout the UK game, leading Bracknell Bees and Belfast Giants to Superleague titles in the early part of this century, while also working behind the bench at Cardiff Devils and Sheffield Steelers.

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Whistle gladly embraces challenge of helping ice hockey take hold in Leeds

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For the past few years, the 55-year-old has been coaching at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, British Columbia.

WINNER: Dave Whistle instructs his Belfast Giants players at the Odyssey Arena in November 2002. Picture: Michael Cooper/Getty Images.

But Ontario-born Whistle, who was inducted into the UK Hall of Fame in 2013, has been looking to move back to the UK for some time and jumped at the opportunity to take the helm at Leeds once he knew owner Nell was looking to fill the position.

The first-ever season of senior hockey in the city came two years ago when the Leeds Chiefs, under player-coach Sam Zajac entered the newly-formed NIHL National (second tier).

But it was a campaign disrupted first by the team being without a rink until late January before just six weeks later, the pandemic saw the whole thing shut down.

MORE – Steve Nell explains why Dave Whistle is the right man for Leeds top job

DEVELOPMENT: Dave Whistle has been working at the Okanagan hockey Academy in Penticton since 2014. Picture courtesy of OHA.

Under new team owner Nell, the club is effectively born again and has a second chance to grow the game in the city, something Whistle has already had success in when he became Belfast’s first-ever coach and GM back in 2000.

“This is something I’m very excited about for many reasons,” said Whistle. “I’m going to be able to pretty much put my stamp on the whole programme, both junior development hopefully, and with the senior side.

“Hopefully, we can get a really good fanbase so that we can build from that and fill that ice arena and if we can do that it probably means that we are winning.

“I’m thankful to Steve that he has given me the opportunity to, basically, be the face of that franchise – mostly everything will come through me and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. I’m going to go there and do a really good job for them.”

DELIGHTED: Steve Nell, new owner of Leeds' NIHL National hockey team. Picture: Steve Riding.

Nell believes that in Whistle he has landed the perfect man to do the job he needs doing when it comes to growing the sport in the city.

“I needed somebody who was willing to be working on the ground and Dave is very keen to do that,” explained Nell. “He’s very keen to work from the bottom to the top of the organisation and really get involved.

“We want him to be the face of the club. He’s going to be the general manager so he will be that face. He’s got all the right attributes for us. He knows it is about building from the bottom up and he is more than happy to do that.”

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