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True North stays true to form with Noel

Moose bench boss now NHL head coach

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In the end Moose DNA won out.

And Claude Noel is moving up from his AHL post to be head coach of True North's NHL team.

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Any other decision would have been anti-Moose. And while the new team will likely carry a different moniker it will still be based on the foundation True North built in the IHL and AHL.

Mark Chipman fostered an organization that prided itself on being an NHL outfit despite not having gained acceptance to the league. From travel to training to coaching, it was always first class. There's no question the Moose operated as an NHL franchise and in many ways better than a number of the big league's members.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the organization's approach to coaching.

Noel was hired to coach the AHL's Moose not because he was the best minor league coach available but the best coach available. Period.

Creative, intelligent and an elite communicator, Noel had all the chops.

So why not give him the bump to the NHL gig?

Noel did fine work with last year's Moose under trying circumstances and convinced Chipman and his hockey man Craig Heisinger that he was the man for the job.

Noel becomes the fourth Moose coach in a row to turn his work in Manitoba into an NHL gig. He's just the first that won't have to change offices to make it happen.

The Moose were referred to as a coaching factory. The Anaheim Ducks (Randy Carlyle), Vancouver Canucks (Alain Vigneault) and Columbus Blue Jackets (Scott Arniel) all scooped up Moose head coaches.

Chipman and Heisinger had this promotion in mind for some time, but when they hired GM Kevin Cheveldayoff they ceded most of the decision-making power. There would have been input from Heisinger and Chipman, but at the end of the day this was Cheveldayoff's call.

Considering Cheveldayoff brought in candidate Mike Haviland from his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, Noel had his work cut out for him. Cheveldayoff and Haviland won a Stanley Cup together in Chicago and those bonds run deep.

But Noel didn't just get to the interview process by antler default. He's a Calder Cup champion as a player and a coach and he has three years NHL experience as an assistant to Ken Hitchcock in Columbus. Noel even has a winning record in his one interim stint as a head coach in the NHL, going 10-8-6 to end the 2009-10 season before the Blue Jackets elected to let him go and hire Arniel.

"If the Columbus Blue Jackets want to hire Scott Arniel, we'll be happy to hire Claude Noel," said Heisinger at the time and then only days later pulling the trigger on that exact deal.

A year later and True North is moving up to the NHL and taking Noel with them. It's no surprise and it shouldn't be.

It's a Moose move -- where giving people a chance to succeed and then promoting them for their good work was the company motto.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2011 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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