WINNIPEG – Monday morning Scott Arniel was officially introduced as the fourth head coach of the Winnipeg Jets since the team relocated from Atlanta back in 2011. For the Kingston product, it truly is a full circle situation.

“Going back to 1981 when I was an 18-year-old kid looking to pursue my NHL dream as a hockey player. A lot of firsts have happened here. Like I said, I met my wife here, my kids were raised here, I got to play my first professional games here, I got to retire here at the end of my career as well with the Moose,” said Arniel.

“It was also the start of my coaching career, and it was where I got my… I got to cut my teeth here. it was 23 years ago that I really got into this other part of. People always ask me why I am still doing it. It's just the next thing to being a player. It’s my dream. I’ve loved it.”

For Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff there was one moment where he knew that the team made the right choice to hire Arniel as an associate coach on opening night in October of 2022.

“Opening night, lots of expectations of getting things off to a good start with a new foundation that was being put in place by Bones (Rick Bowness), and unfortunately, he took ill with Covid,” said Cheveldayoff. 

“I remember walking in the assistant coaches office, and I looked at Arnie and said, ‘You got this,’ while he was way ahead of me already. He looked at me and he said, ‘This is how it's going to unfold.’ He was clearly in charge.”

This will be Arniel’s second head coaching job in the NHL. His first job came with the Columbus Blue Jackets and lasted one and a half seasons from 2011-13. Arniel has been asked many times about what happened in Columbus over the years, and he said there were many lessons learned.

“For me, personally, handling some situations better. A little bit at that time, 12 years ago, a little bit of the old school bark and not having more bark and less of the teaching. That’s an area from me that I think I’ve really grown,” said Arniel.

“All the way up to these years with rick, people skills, working with people. The players, building a relationship, I think is No. 1 in this business. The player today is so much different than what it was even five years ago, let alone 12 years ago. That’s all part of it. The relationship part of it is the single biggest thing.”

The Jets won 52 games last season with 110 points and were one of the stingiest teams at five-on-five in the league. The foundation of a good team is already here in the Manitoba capital and having Arniel continue to build off that is a good choice rather than start over with a new voice.

“Certainly, from a relationship standpoint with the players. I was around when he made a couple of phone calls to some of the captains and Helly. In talking with them, they were already talking about next year, already talking about things that weren’t that getting to know you type of conversation. It was like damn right, let’s get going,” said Cheveldayoff.

“So, I think that exuberance, that passion certainly came through when I talked to Arnie over the course of the interview process.  It really started for me back at the exit meetings and listening to some of the players talk about the structure that was put in place, the expectations that were put in place and the disappointment as a group that they all felt, that they want another shot at this.”

Certainly, the Jets early exits from the last two playoffs is something that is being looked at.

“We want to be a team that’s looked at in the west and throughout the league that is a consistent winner, that’s gonna be at the top all the time. You’re going to make the playoffs, you’re going to vie for the Stanley Cup every year and that’s something,” said Arniel.

“We’ve taken the right steps in the last two years, but we’ve still got some work to do. I need to continue to improve every day. The players that 5-10 per cent improvement from last year to this year is going to be important and we have to do that as a group.”

As for Arniel’s staff, Marty Johnson and Wade Flaherty will remain. Cheveldayoff said that assistant Brad Lauer and the team decided to mutually part ways and that means there are two vacancies that Arniel has to take care of. Arniel added that the new coaches will have to take care of the power play, penalty kill and defence.

“Yeah, actually my phone was buzzing like crazy here since Friday. There's certainly been a tremendous amount of turnover in the league in the last year in the last two years,” said Arniel.

“So, there are some a lot of people that have contacted me. We'll work hard this week to put a staff together. There are other teams that are trying to do the same thing.”

Hear from head coach Scott Arniel!

When Arniel came to Winnipeg in 1981, he arrived with the man who arguably is the greatest player ever to wear a Jets jersey, Dale Hawerchuk. The two became friends and remained so right up until Hawerchuk passed away in August of 2020.  So what would Hawerchuk say if he were still here today?

“Well, he’d either ask for an assistant coaching job or he’d want to be the head guy and me to be the assistant,” joked Arniel.

“No, he’d be thrilled. Actually, near the end there, the last few years (with) him coaching in Barrie and I was coaching. We had talked so much about coaching. We had talked a lot about coaching together somewhere, someday down the road we had talked about the Winnipeg Jets. But at the end of the day, he’d be so happy for me, so thrilled that I got this opportunity as well."