Kurt Kleinendorst (April 2000)

Kurt Kleinendorst

Kurt Kleinendorst at Manchester Storm

“I have a lot of good friends here and I was never just going to leave town without saying goodbye, but I’m very comfortable with my decision and as good as I have it here, and as much as I’ve enjoyed my three years here, I’m 100 per cent sure I’m making the right decision. I made my mind up the last time I went home. I really have enjoyed my time here and I don’t regret a minute of it, but it’s time to leave.”

“Contrary to what most people seem to think I have no job to go back to, I just want to go home. I came up with the 1 May deadline, I told David Davies I would know by then and he would have been as patient with me as I needed him to be, but that would not have been fair to him or anyone else involved with the club. Even though 1 May doesn’t work – NHL, AHL,IHL teams don’t make decisions until after their play-offs sometime in June, so as you can see I made my decision for personal reasons. Some times you have to dare yourself to be daring and after 30 June I don’t know what I’ll be doing. I’m hopeful something is going to open up for me, if it doesn’t I’m doing what I’m doing for all the right reasons.”

“My son Kolin turned 13 this month and I sat there and realised that he’s just a few years away from college. So the way I see it is I’ve got two years or so to spent with him before he moves on, becomes less dependent on me, it was just something I had to do, although there were other reasons.”

“Last year we had some situations player-wise that made things really difficult and it wore on me after a while and one of the things I miss a lot is working with younger players. Guys that enjoyed playing for you, that have learned something from you – other than two or three guys that wasn’t the case here this year.”

“I’ll give you a few examples. Barry Nieckar was pretty much done and dusted when I got him down in Raleigh and I wasn’t the one that put him in the NHL. BUT I did give him a chance along the way, I got him into Hartford’s training camp and he went on to play parts of four years in the NHL. I miss that and I realised I wanted to go back and be part of nurturing younger players and help them reach their goals like I did with Weaves. I got Kris Miller when he had no place left to go and got him a place in three different training camps and I love being able to call a player up to tell him I’ve got them a place in Ottawa’s camp, or Hartford’s camp or whoever’s camp because you can see real progress.”

“A worst case scenario for me would be I don’t get a hockey job and I take a year off and coach a youth team in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I live, which to be honest isn’t such a bad deal. I’d be able to spend quality time with my son, help the youth programme in the area and it would be something I really do enjoy.”

“I don’t have these visions of me being an NHL coach anytime soon, I’m not even sure I’d want to be an NHL coach at all. But, say, AHL players I think would have the right attitude because they’re trying to get into the NHL, they’ll listen to what you say, they’ll believe in you as a coach and realise you might have an influence on where they might go. But all that is on the periphery, the reason I’m going home is I want to spend more time with my family, that’s what it’s all about.”

Coach Kleinendorst

Coach Kleinendorst

“My time in Manchester has taught me many valuable lessons. There have been situations where I’ve looked back at the way I’ve handled things and thought I could have done it better, but that’s what I’ve enjoyed, it’s been a constant challenge and similar problems will come again and I’ll be able to handle them better because of what I’ve learned in my time here. Another thing that helped me make my decision was the future of Superleague. It’s going more towards what the ECHL is like as with the wage cap wages are not all that great anymore. You can no longer identify the players you like, talk to their agents and put offers in front of them. It’s not going to be like that anymore. You are going to have to get a list of 50 players and shoot down that list convincing them that it is a good opportunity for them and that although the money is not great it is worth coming over for, and it’s something I just don’t want to do. I did it in the ECHL for five years and it’s not in my heart to do it anymore. The standard is going to drop a little bit and it means the Frankie Pietrangelos and Ed Courtenays are going to be a thing of the past because clubs won’t be able to afford them – if we hadn’t have signed Frankie on a two year deal he wouldn’t have been back because we wouldn’t have been able to afford him. Same with Ed Courtenay. Guys like them are at a point in their careers where they’re going to say ‘no thankyou’ and retire.”

” Having said that, I think the players that are already contracted to come back will do so, in fact I’ve been trying to talk to all five of them about that. I think it’ll be good for them. Kris Miller has been with me here for three years and it would be real easy for him to get stale in the fourth year, a new coach will freshen things up for him and it should wear well for all of them. Come November it’s just going to be like when Woody left, only it’ll be Kurt’s left – what are we going to do? But like we got on with the job after Woody went the new coach will get on with the job after I’ve gone. I feel I’m leaving the programme here in better shape than it was in when I arrived, I’ve made my mark now it’s time to move on.”

“But all things are relative, every team will have the same budget to work to and I think it will open the door for British players to make it in Superleague. All of a sudden you’ll have bottom-end North Americans competing with upper-end British talent, and if I had a Canadian that’s the same calibre as a Brit and I could get the Brit for a little less money, I’d take the Brit and I think most coaches would, so if that’s one of the things Superleague wanted to accomplish I think it will work.”

“Back home we have public buildings that cater for ice and roller hockey as well as private ones put up by businessmen who want to make a little money as well as putting something back into the community. So if it works back there, Utah, which is still not noted as being a hockey hotbed, I can’t understand why it’s not happened in Manchester. The kids here don’t have enough ice time, they practice once a week and play one game a month which is a real shame because the interest in ice hockey is phenomenal. Most of the venues I know of are used every single minute, which means there’s room for somebody else to come in, build a rink and absorb the surplus demand for ice and make money. Maybe nobody’s ever really had a proposal put before them that makes sense, but surely there’s someone out there that’s got a boat load of money and wants to give something back.”

“I’m not leaving because I’m not happy, I’ve leaving because I want to go home and I don’t think anyone can fault me for that. I really didn’t feel in my heart I could come back and do the kind of job I’ve done for the last three years, if I had it would have been a big mistake for everybody. As for who will take over there’s two ways to look at it. If David Davies feels he needs somebody quickly it’ll be Dave Whistle. He knows the league, he’s expressed an interest in the job and David Davies has expressed an interest in him. If he doesn’t want a quick fix and he wants to go out and find the very best guy available and use Ottawa like he did with me then it will take longer. Ottawa brings a great networking capacity, if you give up the bond because you’ve gone on your own then that’s the price you pay. But Dave is a good guy and a good coach, he knows the league and the players and he’s showed he can be a success.”

(c) Peter Collins 2000