Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The quotable coach

Noel was a beauty to listen to this season

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Some think he should have his own reality show -- 'Claude Noel: 24/7', perhaps? -- while others have suggested he write his own book.

Yes, in a season that has taught us so much about the Winnipeg Jets, fans across the country have certainly discovered this about the team's head coach: he is not only a solid bench boss, he is a walking, talking quote machine.

He is, to borrow a phrase, can't miss TV.

He's called out players playing poorly, heartily slapped the backs of those playing well.

This is a man who wore a T-shirt to the team-building event at the Winnipeg Rowing Club emblazoned with: 'The beatings will continue until morale improves.' This is a guy who sang In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida at one of his press conferences, who spun one yarn after another of his coaching/playing days -- he played for Buffalo of the NAHL, he explained, rolling the 'N' and the 'A' together so it sounded like NHL -- and joked that he's still got the big, horkin' speakers he bought from his first paycheque, so big the Noels have no space for a couch in their living room.

Now while we could fill this entire sports section recapping some of Noel's best stories from the past season, space restrictions have us editing it down to a select few Jet-related bits.

Here is what we call Classic Claude:


JUNE 24

On getting the news he had been hired as head coach of the Jets:

"I was shopping at Superstore with my wife and sons. I leaned over a can of tomatoes and it took about a minute before they decided to tell me I had it or not. I would have just rather him say 'You got the job' but he didn't and I went through a living hell for a minute."

SEPT. 19

On his first impressions of Dustin Byfuglien:

"It's pretty wild, how he plays. A couple of days of scrimmage and I'm turning my head here. Buff plays on the edge... sometimes over the edge. I'd like to tow him a little bit, but with those types of players you have to be a little bit careful. You got to bend a little bit, you know? If you start to hammer all the time, now you don't get anything. You gotta make an investment in each other."

OCT. 9

On his team's play in their opener, a 5-1 loss to Montreal:

"We gave up some free pizzas in the middle of the ice. The first one was a free pizza that we gave up and that's exactly what good players do: turnovers result in goals. And good players get one chance and it's in the back of the net."

OCT. 11

On cracking the whip at practice with a few curse words... and his sister in the stands watching:

"She had no influence on my behaviour at all. She knows I swore because it's just the way it happens in the season -- you start to swear a lot. I'm trying not to get influenced by Charlie Huddy, because he REALLY swears a lot. It's not my fault."

OCT. 16

After a loss in Phoenix:

"Why are you, an NHL player, playing like an American league player. And it's not one or two, it's more than that. What has happened between last season, training camp and the start? Where did this go sideways? You can't tell me this is what we are, because if anybody was enthusiastic about the season, I was. I believe we can be a playoff team. But we don't look like one now."

OCT. 27

"I thought to myself, 'Self, you're a sick man trying to make logic of this.' "

DEC. 6

After beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins 2-1, ending their 15-game points streak, at home:

"We're not going to be separating our shoulders patting ourselves on the back for this one. I'm just happy the way we're playing and I want to just keep it going and they do, too. Tomorrow's another work day. So can you tell the players to get ready for work tomorrow and don't enjoy the win too much?"

DEC. 11

Following a 7-1 loss to Detroit:

"It was painful for everybody. Watching it on TV would have been painful, being behind the bench was painful, playing and being one of the players was painful, sitting in the stands as one of the extra players would be painful... there was nothing good about it. I learned from Saturday night that I don't enjoy games like that. I don't enjoy those games. It's even worse when you have to deal with the media after the game after those games because the questions all seem dumb."

DEC. 23

On what he planned to do during the Christmas break:

"I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to the couch. If you call me I'll be right there -- painted on the couch."

JAN. 5

After the Jets open the new year with a loss in Montreal:

"We didn't play with the same heart, determination, passion, the same fire that you played the whole month before. At the end of the day, you can't fake this thing. I don't think it was fun for anybody but we weren't prepared to do the things we were doing for the last month and it showed."

FEB. 18

On winning and losing:

"I know one thing today: I like winning more than I like losing. That's good, eh? Write that down... winning is better than losing. That's going to be the quote of the day. 'Winning is better than losing.' Should I attach my name to that one? That's C. Noel."

FEB. 21

After a crushing OT loss to Philly in which they surrendered the tying goal with 10 seconds left:

"What do you want to say after a game after that? What do you want to do? How demoralized do you want to get? What do you want to do... go home and put the knives and ropes away? There's another day tomorrow, we've got another game coming up on Thursday. We're going to have to pick our bootstraps up and play."

MARCH 9

Following a loss in Calgary, asked how disappointed he was:

"How would you like me to answer that? Do you want me to say medium, large? How disappointed are you? Is there a level there? Is it a 10 out of 10? Would you like me to six out of 10? I mean, how disappointed do you need to be?"

MARCH 31

After officially being eliminated from the playoff picture in a 3-2 OT loss to Tampa Bay, asked about the team's future:

"I can't even think past this game, it's too disappointing. I don't have any thoughts beyond that. This isn't a good time for me to discuss that. I know you'd like to discuss that, but this isn't a good night for me to do that."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2012 C3

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