The SHL’s game of musical coaches appears to have reached its end. First, Martin Delorme left the Michigan Gray Wolves to become the first coach of the expansion Quebec Tigres. Next, Michigan hired Ron Wright away from the Hamilton Pistols to replace Delorme. Now, the Pistols have hired Washington Galaxy assistant coach Keith Shields to serve as their head coach for next season.
“This is a real coup for us,” said Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire. “We’ve got ourselves the brightest young coaching mind out there.”
Shields was highly regarded in SHL circles, having reportedly made the short list in both Quebec’s and Michigan’s coaching searches. He could hardly be more different than Wright, the man he’s replacing. Wright has been coaching longer than the 33-year-old Shields has been alive. Wright is a defense-first coach, while Shields said he likes “a nice high-flying offense.” Wright is known as a strict disciplinarian, while Shields shares the fun-loving outlook of his former boss, Galaxy head coach Rodney Reagle.
“Obviously, I want everybody working hard when they’re on the ice,” said Shields. “But the season can be a long grind, and it’s important to relax and have fun sometimes too. It’s a balance.”
The hiring of Shields is part of a larger rebuild for Hamilton, which finished with the league’s second-worst record last season. The Pistols appear to be retooling around their high-scoring trio of LW Steven Alexander, C Rod Remington, and RW Claude Lafayette. They recently shipped second-line C Cliff Derringer and RW “King George” Lane to the expansion Seattle Sailors for a package of draft picks.
“We believe this is the best path to a championship for us,” said LaClaire. “In Steven, Rod, and Claude, we have the strongest first line in the league. We intend to surround them with a group of fine young players. Together with Keith’s leadership, we are confident that we are building a long-term contender.”
Shields expressed excitement at the opportunity to coach the Pistols. “I really like what we’ve got here,” he told reporters. “We’ve got a great first line, lots of scoring punch. And I know we’re going to have a great draft and get a bunch of exciting young players. I can’t wait to coach ‘em up!”
Reagle believes his protégé is destined for greatness. “I’m gonna miss Keith, for sure, but I knew some smart team was going to snap him up,” said Reagle. “He’s young, but he’s got a good head on his shoulders. It’s going to be fun competing against him.”
The Galaxy announced that second assistant coach Herman Chambers will be promoted to lead assistant to replace Shields.