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Winnipeg’s Unnamed NHL Team Chooses Claude Noel as First Coach

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June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Winnipeg’s relocated National Hockey League team has a new coach. It still doesn’t have a name.

Claude Noel, who last season coached the city’s American Hockey League team, the Manitoba Moose, will be behind the bench in October when the NHL returns to Winnipeg for the first time since 1996, General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said today in a news conference. The team has the No. 7 pick in the NHL Draft, which starts tonight in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is yet to announce a nickname.

“We have a great opportunity ahead of us,” Noel, 55, said from the Westin Hotel in Minneapolis. “I really look forward to building a good tight team that’s going to play hard and play for each other.”

This week, the league’s board of governors voted in New York to approve the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg-based True North Sports & Entertainment Ltd. The team will play in Winnipeg’s 15,000-seat MTS Centre starting with the 2011-12 season.

Noel spent three years as an assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2007-2010, and became head coach for three months in 2010 when the team fired Ken Hitchcock, going 10-8-6. Last season, Noel led the Moose to a 43-40-1-6 record. In addition to the NHL and AHL, he has coaching experience in the ECHL.

Cheveldayoff said conversations with a number of Noel’s former players were a big factor in the team’s decision. He called Noel a “tremendous leader, a person who spends a lot of time getting to know each and every individual player.”

Coaching Candidates

The team also interviewed Chicago Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland, former player Craig Mactavish and Craig Ramsay, who coached the Thrashers until the team’s sale, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.

Winnipeg lost its previous NHL team, the Jets, when the franchise moved to Arizona in 1996 and became the Phoenix Coyotes. Suggestions for the team’s new nickname include the Jets and the Manitoba Falcons, in honor of the Winnipeg Falcons, who won Canada’s first Olympic hockey gold medal in 1920. An online petition calling for the team to regain the Jets nickname has gathered more than 13,600 signatures.

Cheveldayoff called the team’s naming situation an “ongoing process.”

“A lot of time, a lot of thought has been put into it,” he said. “You don’t make a decision just for the sake of doing it.”

The new team will be the NHL’s seventh Canadian team, joining the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators.

-- Editors: Rob Gloster, Michael Sillup

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net