Nelson Leafs get their man as former assistant Frank Maida steps behind the bench as skipper
By Bruce Fuhr
The Nelson Daily Sports
It didn’t take long, or a search that required scouring the benches of hockey arenas across Canada, for the Nelson Leafs to find a skipper to replace former coach Chris Shaw.
Leaf president Russell Stocks decided instead to rustle some familiar bushes.
And what did he find?
“The Nelson Leafs are excited to announce Frank Maida has been named our new Coach and General Manager effective immediately,” Stocks said in a written press release.
“Frank has demonstrated his leadership both on and off the ice over several seasons as the Assistant Coach and we are confident he will build on these successes as the Head Coach.”
Shaw tendered his resignation to Leaf management after accepting an assistant coaching position with Vernon Vipers of the BCHL.
In Maida, Stocks found a former Leaf assistant itching to get back behind the bench.
“I was kind of caught off-guard when they called,” the new man leading the Green and White into the 2011-12 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season told The Nelson Daily Wednesday.
“I told him I needed a few days to think about it,” Maida added. “I took a few days to talk it over with (partner) Jackie and decided I was ready to head back to the rink.”
Of course many know Maida as the tag-team partner of former skipper Simon Wheeldon.
The two worked hand-in-hand for five seasons, bringing Nelson a KIHL crown in 2009 and within a win of the Cyclone Taylor title that very same year.
Many thought Maida would step right into Wheeldon’s head coaching shoes once the former European professional decided to leave his position following the 2010 campaign.
Even Wheeldon, himself, put in a good word for his right-hand man. But Maida entered a cross roads between hockey and his job managing Rona Building Centre in Castlegar.
“The (Leafs) came to me right away last year but I had some other things that were happening with my present job and told them I had to think about it,” Maida explained.
“When I thought about it I decided I needed a break and spent a year away from the rink.”
“I only attended a few minor hockey games,” Maida added. “But when the phone call came in (last week) I thought this was a good time as any to give it a try as a head coach.”
Maida said the first item on his plate is to schedule a meeting with Shaw for a crash course on potential players the former coach had on his recruiting list.
The next priority is to meet with the players to find out their plans.
“Most of the kids recruited are coming out of midget but have Junior A as their goal,” Maida said. “But every kid should have a back-up plan if they’re not successful. You just hope you’re that back-up plan.”
For five seasons Maida and Wheeldon developed players for college, university and junior A ranks. During the final season the duo sent most of the 2009-10 roster off to teams in the B.C. Junior Hockey League.
Maida doesn’t see any reason to change a philosophy that had the Leafs advance to the KIJHL Conference Final three out of the five years.
“My philosophy isn’t going to change,” Maida confessed. “We’re going to play all four lines and six defence and try to be a quick skating team that moves the puck.”
Before signing on with Wheeldon, Maida coached numerous seasons in Nelson Minor Hockey.
ICE CHIPS: Maida said he expects to announce his coaching staff as early as next week. . . . Maida also said he will not participate in the upcoming Leafs summer hockey school set to begin Monday at the NDCC Arena, instead leaving the coaching to former skipper Chris Shaw. The camp, set for July 25-29 and is open to regular and elite players between the ages of eight to 14. The camp includes have 2.5 hours of ice time and 1.5 hours of dryland training under the guidance of Shaw and Leaf players. Players interested should register on the Nelson Leafs website at http://www.nelsonleafs.ca