Meet new IceDogs coach Jeff Angelidis
Jeff Angelidis arrived at the Meridian Centre Monday morning around 8 a.m. ready to watch some game film as the newest member of the Niagara IceDogs coaching staff.
Angelidis made his Ontario Hockey League debut behind the bench as an assistant last week in Kingston after being promoted from the Brantford 99ers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and was looking forward to the new challenge.
A few hours later Angelidis took a call from IceDogs owner/general manager Darren DeDobbelear asking him to take over as head coach on an interim basis following the dismissal of head coach Daniel Fitzpatrick.
“It was a little bit of shock,” Angelidis said. “Dan Fitzgerald is a phenomenal person. We developed a friendship and respect for each other so yesterday was a shock. Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking. It was very difficult to see him like that.
“It was a mixed bag of emotions. To me, this is movie script stuff.”
Once the initial surprise wore off, the 45-year-old Milton resident realized the break he had been presented with.
“I’ve been provided with a phenomenal platform and opportunity so it was a real strange day,” Angelidis said from the coach’s office at Meridian Centre where Fitzgerald’s name still remained on a nameplate above his locker. “The shock obviously wears off after a little bit of time and there’s excitement.”
Angelidis and assistant coach Brandon Shaw ran Monday’s practice as word of the change slowly trickled out.
“I think I came back to 120 texts on my phone,” Angelidis said.
DeDobbelaer, assistant general manager Wes Consorti and Angelidis met with the team Tuesday and Angelidis has some specific ideas on how to improve the team which has won just four games, is 19th overall in a 20-team league, and have permitted a whopping 89 goals in just 17 games.
“New systems will be implemented,” Angelidis said. “We’re not re-inventing the wheel here or anything. I will implement some defensive-structured systems that I feel are in need. The offence is in that locker room. There is enough production to be successful. My opinion, after watching video and discussing with the rest of the staff, is we need structure. I’m a very defensive-minded coach. I think that’s probably why I’m sitting here.
“We need to take pride in defensive responsibilities and allow their God-given talent to take over in the offensive game.”
Angelidis said there is no wiggle room on those views.
“The players will understand this is non-negotiable. We will be playing above the puck. You’re going to defend and your offensive abilities will take over once we defend properly. You want to play in the fun zone. If you do the work efficiently on the right side of the puck, you’ll have more time in the fun zone.”
He also has specific ideas on character and makeup.
“You have to be an ultra-competitor,” he said. “I’m talking about ripping your heart out of your chest for the logo. You have to be a good citizen, a phenomenal teammate. I plan to instil a belief system in one another. Call it a band of brothers. If you don’t care about the guys next to you or across the room and you’re not willing to put everything on the line, you’re in the wrong industry, the wrong business.”
Angelidis is well aware he is in a difficult position coming in after the start of the season, not to mention the interim tag and the fact DeDobbelear has gone on record saying he is still looking for another head coach.
“I got up this morning, put my big boy pants on, and came here to do a job,” he said. “I’m passionate about this. I’m borderline obsessed about coaching. To have this opportunity, I’m over the moon with it.
“Is it difficult? Sure. But I’m not thinking of that. I have a job to do. It’s meeting and getting to know the staff and getting to know the players — some of them I do know — but it’s time to get to work.”
Angelidis began this season as general manager-head coach of the OJHL’s Trenton Golden Hawks before moving to the 99ers.
He began coaching following a lengthy playing career which wrapped up in 2006/07 with the Jacksonville Barracudas of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
“I’ve played junior, college, European Pro, North American pro and you pick up things from coaches,” he said. “I’ve got some mentors in the NHL and pro hockey I steal ideas from. My formula is you take little bits from individuals you have crossed paths with on the way and you build up your own ideas and theories.
“You have to understand what’s in your tool box — what are you working with — and then design and tailor a system with what you have to work with.”
He also got a peek behind the curtain how the Tampa Bay Lightning are run thanks to his cousin, Mike Angelidis, a former OHL player who worked as a scout for the Lightning.
“I absorbed as much as I could,” he said.
Angelidis, who lives in Milton with his wife Melissa and sons Edwin, 10, and Charlie, 8, is eager to implement his ideas with the IceDogs.
“They have to believe in you. They are all different. You have to be able to morph and gel to them, but not deviate from your structure and your plan. You have to be able to build relationships where they trust you.
“I don’t want them to be fearful of me because I don’t think that works, but I want them to be afraid to disappoint the staff and each other.”
Angelidis will make his debut as head coach Thursday when Niagara hosts the Saginaw Spirit.
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