By SHAWN RINE
WHEELING - After 2-plus seasons and the fourth-most victories in the organization's history, the News-Register has learned that Greg Puhalski has resigned as coach of the Wheeling Nailers, effective immediately. He was to be introduced at a news conference a 2 p.m. today as the new head coach of Wilfrid Laurier University, his alma mater.
Puhalski played for the school, which is located in Waterloo, Ontario, from 1987-1991, and his name is still displayed prominently in both the record books and inside Sun Life Financial Arena.
The search for a new Nailers coach has already begun, and co-President Rob Brooks said he hopes to have someone in place within the next month. According to Brooks, who is going by previous experience in the search department, it should be a pretty smooth process.
''This is a job people want,'' he said. ''When we first came to town and put out a notice for a coaching job, you would be surprised at the names that applied.
''We've already started our discussions with the Penguins.''
Brooks noted that Pittsburgh's role is more of a go-between than and advisory one. In other words, the Penguins will help with their contacts in hopes of finding the right coach in a timely manner.
''Throughout the years when we've had to look for coaches, we have a file,'' Brooks said. ''We run across a lot of people especially with having the AHL team, too.
''The hockey community is very small, and there are only so many jobs at the ECHL, AHL and NHL levels.''
''Chief,'' as he is affectionately known by his players and fans, took over at midseason in 2008 and won a combined 82 games during his stint in Wheeling, which leaves him behind only Glenn Patrick (86), Pat Bingham (89) and Doug Sauter (202). His 634 career victories have Puhalski among the leaders of all professional coaches.
The 46-year-old Puhalski said he was torn about the decision, but in the end his loyalty to his school was too much to turn his back on.
''We love living in Wheeling - my wife and I really love the area,'' he said. ''An opportunity came up to coach my alma mater and I think it's just the right time.
''I turned down a similar opportunity years ago. I think for where I'm at with my family, it's the right time to make the move.''
A native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Puhalski was the coach of the 2009 American Conference All-Star team as the Nailers skated to the best record at the halfway point. That season ended with a hard-to-swallow, double-overtime road loss in a first-round Game 7 against Cincinnati.
''My wife and I had a terrific time in Wheeling,'' he said. ''The fans have been outstanding to us. I can't thank them enough.
''The Brooks brothers and family have treated (wife) Ally and (daughter) Zara tremendously.
''They've been very supportive.''
A former third-round pick of the Boston Bruins (62nd overall) in 1983, Puhalski played five seasons in the Ontario Hockey League before attending Laurier. He then played four years for the ECHL's Toledo Storm.
His coaching stops have taken him from Toledo to Port Huron (UHL), on to Fort Wayne (UHL), Chicago (UHL), Wheeling, and now back to Laurier.
''We're all excited for Greg and Ally,'' Brooks said. ''We all love him and wish the best for him.
''He understands our level, and he understands there's a lot of things you have to do besides just coaching on the ice.
''You have to do a little more than Xs and Os, too. You have to be a community person, and he certainly is.''