Nelson management turns to former skipper Mario DiBella to right the Leafs ship
It didn’t take the Nelson Leafs long to find a skipper to replace Dave McLellan, who unexpectedly resigned earlier this week.
Nelson Leafs Hockey Society president John Dooley said the Heritage City franchise has turned to former coach Mario DiBella to right the rudderless ship of the once-mighty Kootenay International Junior Hockey League team.
The decision came five days after the Leaf board decided to part ways with former coach and GM, Dave McLellan and assistant coach Greg Andrusak.
“We felt Mario had experience with the organization as a previous coach and also coached at the (BC Hockey) Major Midget program so he new a lot of the kids locally and from the area,” Leaf president John Dooley told The Nelson Daily Sunday.
“We felt (Mario) was in line with the values we have for the team and was the right person for the job,” Dooley adds.
DiBella, 59, takes over the team’s Head Coach and General Manager positions, effective immediately.
Dooley said everyone, including Sean Dooley and Stathis Dimopolus, two assistant coaches that remained with the team for the final game in Spokane Wednesday before the Christmas break, have been put on notice they may, or may not, return to the Leafs as DiBella now is tasked with the decision to put his support group together.
Dooley said other people came forward, but it was DiBella, a pillar in Nelson’s hockey community, that showed the most interest.
“Some other people said they were interested but we didn’t get much more from them,” Dooley explained. “When Mario put his name forward we met with him and made the decision (today).”
DiBella, owner and operator of Martech Electrical Systems and Marwest Industries as well as an active supporter of minor sports in Nelson, must right a Leaf ship that lost 15 of 18 games since October 31.
Nelson currently sits in fourth spot in the Murdoch Division with a 14-19-0-0-1 record, three points behind third-place Grand Forks Border Bruins and trails division-leading Beaver Valley Nitehawks by 17 points.
DiBella comes to the Leafs with experience in the KIJHL, having coached the Leafs from 2000-2002.
But he brings so much more to the team having been part of various levels from BC High Performance Zone, Provincial Camps for Team BC and Team Pacific to Head Coach of the Major Midget Kootenay Ice and the local BC Hockey Female AAA team, Kootenay Wildcats — now the Kootenay Wild.
DiBella has also scouted for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and the Westside Warriors in the BC Hockey League and the Melville Millionaires in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
DiBella is a Mentor Skills Instructor for Hockey Canada and is accredited with Hockey Canada’s Advanced Coaching certification.
Before making the leap in to coaching, DiBella played for the Nelson Junior Maple Leafs, Penticton Broncos (BCHL), Grand Forks Border Bruins, Taber Golden Suns (AJHL) before completing his competitive career as netminder for Nelson Maple Leafs of the Western International Junior Hockey League.
He was a two time first team all-star in the KIJHL and led the league in goals against average in the 1983 season with the senior Leafs. He has received several coaching recognition awards and has been instrumental in developing local players both in the male and female categories.
“Mario’s job is to put his group together and more forward from here to a positive second half of the season,” Dooley said.
“We want him to bring structure back to this program. . .. To focus on the development of players and education and relations within the community.
“Values we believe in as a board.”
DiBella’s first game at the helm will be December 30th against the Beaver
Valley Nighthawks in Fruitvale.
The first home game is the annual New Year’s Eve contest against the Nitehawks December 31 at 2:30 p.m. in the NDCC Arena.