MINNEAPOLIS -- Winnipeg management first reached Claude Noel with the offer to become the new team's first head coach while he was at a Winnipeg grocery store with his wife and son.
"I leaned over on a can of tomatoes and thought and took about a minute," Noel said Friday. "I was both nervous and when I got the news I was extremely excited. There was a lot of emotion. I've gone through this process a few times. I can't wait to get started. I can't tell you how happy I am. In my world there's a high level of joy."
On Friday morning, True North Sports and Entertainment introduced Noel before a packed room at the club's downtown hotel headquarters in Minneapolis, where it is preparing for the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft on Friday night. He becomes the sixth coach of the franchise that recently relocated from Atlanta.
Certainly True North is familiar with Noel, who guided the Manitoba Moose, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, to a 43-30-1-6 record this past season. The Moose reached the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
Noel also brings three years of experience with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization, where he served as assistant coach before a brief stint as interim head coach in 2009-10 after Ken Hitchcock was dismissed. Noel compiled a 10-8-4-2 mark with the Blue Jackets.
Noel also spent four seasons in the Nashville Predators organization serving as head coach of the club's Milwaukee AHL affiliate. With the Admirals, Noel won a Calder Cup in 2004 and won league coaching honors that season. Two seasons later, Noel took his club to the Calder Cup final in 2006. Noel's Milwaukee clubs went 183-94-12-31.
True North decided on Noel after what Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff described as a "thorough process."
"It is very exciting for me to be standing here knowing how strongly we feel that we have found that guy, and that the group of young players that we have moving forward," Cheveldayoff said. "The young players that we're going to be drafting here today are going to be coached by a guy that is a tremendous leader, a person who spends a lot of time getting to know each and every individual player.
"A coach that over the course of our due diligence that we talked to many, many players who have played for him, was coached by him, that said the dressing room was a fun place to be. It was a place where we enjoyed coming to the rink, that on the bench we enjoyed playing for him ... and that he was a fair, and kept everybody accountable."
Noel brings a reputation for fostering loose, relaxed dressing rooms, but his clubs also earned marks for being hard-working and extremely well-organized squads that often overachieved.
Coaching in the AHL means working with fewer resources than at the NHL level.
In talking to players who had played under Noel, Cheveldayoff said, "To a man, they all said, ‘He held us accountable, it was a fun place to play, it was an environment that fostered learning, it was an environment that fostered togetherness.'"
Noel will be with his third organization in as many seasons and has already begun to acquaint himself with the players who will be making the move to Winnipeg. Noel plans to contact the players on his new roster.
"I see some good things ahead for our hockey club when I watch us play on the tape, and I've watched quite a few games of the players," he said. "It's really, really exciting to see some of the both young players and veteran players and I think we have a great opportunity ahead of us to really do some good things, and I'm really excited about that.
"What brings me complete excitement is the fact that I'm working with such a fine group of people and True North, I'm familiar with the management staff and I really look forward to working together with them. I really look forward to building a good tight team that is going to play hard."
While placing Noel behind the Winnipeg bench crosses another important task off the club's summer to-do list, much remains to be done on the hockey front. The club will have to round out the remainder of Noel's coaching staff, as True North elected not to retain the staff that worked in Atlanta this past season.
Noel is familiar with the Winnipeg hockey market, but he has a roster full of players who will be relocating to a new city in a new country.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Noel said. "I'm really looking forward to the challenges. I think that's what a coach likes to do, finding solutions to those challenges."
Noel has coached at the NHL, AHL, IHL and ECHL levels and rarely looked flustered during his time with the Moose this past season.
"It's all good. It's all great. For me, I'm a confident guy," he said. "And if I was a young coach, at 38, 40 years old, maybe it's a little different task. But I'm a little older, more seasoned, I've gone through some ups and downs, which I think are really healthy and really good.
"So I feel good about my abilities and what I'm able to do. And I really feel confident that I'm able to lead this group in the direction that we want to go. I'm a tremendously passionate coach."