Dennehy Resigns as Head Coach of Nailers

Wheeling left to find new boss in short time frame

WHEELING — Mark Dennehy was hired as the new coach of the Wheeling Nailers on May 30.

Two months later, before even coaching a practice, the team is on the lookout for another head coach.

Dennehy resigned this past weekend, taking a job with the Binghampton Devils of the American Hockey League, leaving the Nailers scrambling to find a coach with training camp set to begin Oct. 1.

“We were pleased to have Mark with us, but it is unfortunate,” Wheeling Nailers governor Don Rigby said during a press conference Wednesday at the Nailers front office. “This is minor league hockey and the world we live in. I guess it says something about our ability to hire good people that they keep moving up on us.

“We wish him great success. We have begun our search with the assistance of the Pittsburgh Penguins. We are confident our search will identify another high quality individual that will mesh themselves into the community and be a great addition to our organization, the Pittsburgh organization and find a home here in Wheeling.”

The Nailers take a lot of pride in sending the most players to the NHL of any team in the ECHL. Now, Dennehy follows in the footsteps of former Nailers coach Clark Donatelli in earning a promotion to the AHL.

Former Nailers coach Peter Laviolette is the current coach of the NHL’s Nashville Predators and won a Stanley Cup coaching the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

Dennehy was offered the job over the weekend and after talking with Rigby and Pittsburgh Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin, decided to advance his hockey career, leaving the Nailers in a tight spot.

Binghampton is the AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils.

“We talked with Mark many times and then began to put a game plan together,” Rigby said. “It is a nice move up for Mark. Unfortunately, sometimes we rent players and coaches instead of own them. But that is the kind of thing as an organization, all of our people can move up and we support that.”

Despite training camp two months away — the first preseason game is Oct. 13 in Norfolk — Rigby is looking for not just a coach, but the right coach.

Rigby said the team has already received several resumes and will also revisit with some of the candidates they spoke with before hiring Dennehy.

“It is not worrisome, but it is problematic,” Rigby said of the timing. “There are several teams in the league that are in the same position we are in.

“When we were looking for a coach previously, there were several folks we had great interest in. We have talked to several folks since Saturday, as have the Penguins. We had a nice positive vibe going in the community, but I think we will get that back.”

There is no timetable on how soon the team plans on finding a new coach.

“It is an attractive position,” Rigby said. “We think the Nailers and the Pittsburgh organization has proven you can have success here. We don’t think we will have a hard time finding quality candidates.

“We won’t wait too long. We hope very quickly, but as we told our staff, we are going to make sure we get the right person as to simply hiring someone.

“We are looking for a variety of things. We want someone who can develop players. Going back to being a developmental league, we have a responsibility to those young men coming here that we can further their hockey careers. We want someone of good character, someone that will mesh well with this community and understand the community. The coach is the face of the team.”

Dennehy was not available for comment, but stated through a press release “I’m sorry that my time in Wheeling was so short. Wheeling is a great city and the Nailers are a first-class organization.”

“Mark fell in love with this community and was looking forward to the challenges this position would bring,” Rigby said. “But it is no different than anybody else. It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. He feels regret we ended up the way we are. We will have the same regret as we hire somebody away from someone else.”

According to Rigby, Dennehy talked with each of his players to let them know of his move and received positive feedback.