Claude Noel has been living a dream in fast forward since being hired as the first head coach of the new Winnipeg Jets and says he hasn't even had enough time to sit back and enjoy the appointment he's waited most of his professional life for.

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This article was published 10/8/2011 (3975 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jets head coach Claude Noel admits he struggled with anxiety in the first couple of weeks as the responsibility of his new job sank in, but once his staff was hired, the nerves calmed down.

GENEVIEVE ROSS / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

Jets head coach Claude Noel admits he struggled with anxiety in the first couple of weeks as the responsibility of his new job sank in, but once his staff was hired, the nerves calmed down.

Claude Noel has been living a dream in fast forward since being hired as the first head coach of the new Winnipeg Jets and says he hasn't even had enough time to sit back and enjoy the appointment he's waited most of his professional life for.

"I haven't had enough time for any self-indulgent thought, but I have thought, at my age, if I hadn't gotten this job, I would have been the poster boy for perseverance because I would have still been trying," he said.

Never shy to discuss his thoughts on hockey and most any other subject, Noel opened up on a number of topics Wednesday afternoon.

 

On being prepared for the move from head coach of the AHL's Manitoba Moose to the NHL's Winnipeg Jets:

 

"I'm happy to get the opportunity, and I understand that it's an opportunity. When I interviewed with Zinger and Chevy, I brought up the fact that if I was 40 or 42 and a younger coach, it would be a different situation. I feel way better getting this chance at my age as a seasoned coach. I'm 55 and I'm way more confident in my own skin and way more confident of how I do things, and I use my resource of my experience and my gut feelings. I follow my instincts way more now. When I was younger, I was feeling my way around and I wasn't always sure what to do. Now, when I'm not sure, I just follow my gut and it usually turns out to be the right call."

 

On getting the news he'd been hired by the Jets:

 

"You look at the day and you have visions of the day, and you don't know how you're going to respond. I got the call at the grocery store in St. Norbert and your heart just shoots through your chest. I was in the produce section with my wife and my son and all kinds of emotions go through you.

"It was an emotional roller-coast for a couple of weeks. You kind of feel like you're spinning your wheels because you have so much to do -- hire coaches and get staff, and it's only started to sink in of late. I went through the first couple of weeks with a lot of anxiety, and fear was one of the emotions. Fear of failure, thinking this has to get off the ground and I have to do a good job. I feel a lot better now. I got over that stuff once my staff was hired."

 

On dealing with the transition from the Atlanta Thrashers to the Winnipeg Jets:

 

"When we became the Jets, I wasn't hired yet. They went down to Atlanta to pick up stuff and then I got hired and settled into my office and said, 'Where are the game tapes?' We had no tapes. We never got them. I was able to get them from somewhere else, but I went through three days where I was dealing with that. You need tape. I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' That's your bread and butter. You have to watch to know your players and watch the power play and penalty kill. But we figured it all out."

 

Can the Jets make the playoffs this season?

 

"We have a chance to make the playoffs. We do have a hockey team. We have elements. Are we a couple of guys away from a forward standpoint? These things will work themselves out. But we will be challenged. When I say challenged, I think it's a good challenge. But the one thing I like about our group is we have youth, and with youth you have growth and upside. I think we have a real good chance to have improvement. What level of improvement? Are we gonna be the most improved team in the NHL and go from 80 points to 95 and make the playoffs? We're gonna need all we can get, but I think we have that chance."

 

On the Jets roster:

 

"I like our defence, I like our goalies, I like our forwards. We could probably use another top six, but that's OK. It'll sort itself out. With our management and people here, we will look and assess and push and pull and bend and shape. But I do think we have a chance to make the playoffs. This is going to be a completely different dynamic for the players with the accountability and demands of the fans. For me, it's going to be a great opportunity and I can't wait. I think our players are going to be anxious to start and thrilled for the chance to grow with this group. And I do think we have a chance. Is the team we have in October going to be the same in February? It will be interesting to see."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca