Interview with Coventry Coach Chuck Weber
Chuck Weber’s arrival in the British Elite League proved not only to be a turning point for the Coventry Blaze, but for the league as a whole.
In the space of five months Weber took Coventry from 9th to 6th, securing a playoff berth that had at one time looked in serious jeopardy following a poor start to the season, before guiding the Blaze past three of the league’s teams to lift the playoff crown.
The 42-year old’s influence on the Midlands club reshaped attitudes to coaching across the league, even acting as something of a trigger for the dismissal of league winning coach Gerad Adams in Sheffield, and this week’s announcement Weber would be returning for the 2015/16 season was met with rapturous applause from Blaze fans.
One Puck Short caught up with Weber, currently at home in the U.S., to find out what motivated him to come back, and what his plans are for the coming season:
“I really enjoyed my time there, and the people. The fan support was fantastic.” Weber said “The chance to build on the finish we had last year was intriguing. The chance to play in an international tournament, and compete against the best in UK, is exciting.”
After four seasons Coaching in the AHL, first with Rochester and then with San Antonio, Weber took the reigns at KHL outfit Medvescak Zagreb last summer. But a difficult start to the season saw the Longport, NY native part company with the Croatian side in early October.
The two time Kelly Cup winner then joined Coventry on December 1st, succeeding interim-Head Coach Steven Goertzen, and quickly set about resurrecting the teams fortunes.
“It took time, but he (Weber) worked out all the kinks and we all bought in to his system.” netminder Brain Stewart recalled when talking to One Puck Short following Coventry’s playoff win. “Ultimately, we started playing better hockey and really started to enjoy it again. It obviously worked out in the end!”
Like Stewart, who has also re-signed with the club, fans and pundits across the EIHL noticed the improvement in the Blaze under Weber’s guidance; and after such an impressive spell behind the Blaze bench, many questioned whether Weber would be tempted to stay on – or whether his impressive CV, which includes a John Brophy Award as ECHL Coach of the Year, would attract bigger fish.
But with a Continental Cup place secured, and spirits high at the club, Weber felt there was more he could achieve in Coventry.
“Unless you win everything there is always something to build on the next season. You always have to look to improve as a person and coach.”
With the opportunity to help shape his own roster this season, can Blaze fans expect to see something different from the team this year?
“It’ll be similar to what the fans saw last year.” Weber said confidently “We want to be a solid defensive team, that can hopefully create more goals for. I want us to continue to be a hard working team that is smart and can make adjustments.”
“James Pease and I have a certain type of player we are looking for in the recruiting process.” Weber continued “Fortunately we have a strong base to work off of and we will be looking to fill specific needs. The players coming in know what is expected of them conditioning wise.”
Weber’s approach to the game and attention to detail, both on the ice and off it, drew praise from many corners – and with a thriving junior club and an NIHL team, fans are understandable excited to see what the ex-Cincinnati Cyclones supremo will bring to the fold next season.
“I’m willing to help the organization anyway I can.” Weber said “This is about building a foundation for years to come not just the 2015-2016 season.”
With IHL and ECHL success, and experience in two of the world’s biggest leagues, Weber returns to an Elite League that has had its share of ups and downs – but no problem is insurmountable and the American hopes to be part of positive change.
“Every league has its positives and negatives.” Weber reflects “Hopefully we can continue to bring new ideas to the table to make the league better for fans, sponsors and the players.”
“We have to be proactive in moving forward and I am looking forward to being part of process.”