The Saginaw Spirit announced today that the team has added a one year extension to the contract of Head CoachGreg Gilbert. With that, the Mississauga, Ontario native will be in the fold for the next three Ontario Hockey League seasons with the deal set to expire at the end of the 2015-16 campaign. Gilbert became the sixth coach in the history of the Spirit in December, 2011 and his impact behind the bench began to pay immediate dividends. His won loss record in season one at the helm produced a 20-10-1-5 record and a spot in the OHL playoffs where the Spirit eliminated the Sarnia Sting in six games before falling in another six game set against the eventual League Champion London Knights. Gilbert’s work behind the bench was subsequently recognized league wide as he was awarded the Matt Leyden Trophy as the OHL’s Coach of the Year for the 2011-12 season. The honor represented the first Coach of the Year award for the Spirit franchise.
The Spirit also made an appearance in the playoffs following the conclusion of the 2012-13 regular season, where Gilbert, in his first full campaign with Saginaw, guided the club to a 32-29-4-3 record. Saginaw was eventually defeated by the London Knights in an opening round Western Conference series, with Gilbert once again recognized as a finalist in the OHL Coach of the Year balloting.
For his part, Gilbert is pleased to be able to carry on the work that he and his staff have started. "I am honored to have been offered, by the ownership and Jim Paliafito, the opportunity to extend my time here with the Saginaw Spirit Organization. We as an organization have set a plan in place and are adhering to it. I am grateful for the opportunity to see the plan through and be a part of bringing a championship to the Saginaw Spirit Organization."
Saginaw Spirit General Manager Jim Paliafito has developed an outstanding working relationship with Gilbert, and says the extension is well deserved. "He’s simply a winner. Greg Gilbert has won everywhere he has played and coached. The positive results of his two seasons with us in Saginaw have earned him this extension. I am very pleased to have Greg under contract for three more years. I believe he is the man to lead the Saginaw Spirit to an OHL Championship."
Spirit President Craig Goslin shares Paliafito’s enthusiasm on the Gilbert announcement. “On behalf of Spirit Owner Dick Garber, we are glad to extend Coach Gilbert’s contract. Ownership and management stand committed to building an OHL model franchise, both on and off the ice. Coach Gilbert is a key ingredient to that cause as he is deeply committed to building a winner here in Saginaw. He is equally committed to our player’s development, both as hockey players and as people. I know from our discussions that he absolutely loves it here in Saginaw and we are eager to see how far his leadership and strong coaching skills can take the Spirit during the next three seasons. This is a great day for the franchise.”
Prior to joining the Saginaw Spirit organization, Gilbert enjoyed a diverse and successful career both behind the bench and as a player. He was at the helm during two of the best seasons in the history of the Mississauga/Niagara IceDogs franchise leading them to an appearance in the OHL Final in the 2003-04 season where they were defeated by the Guelph Storm, and the following season when the IceDogs won the OHL’s Central Division title and finished first overall in the Eastern Conference in the regular season. Gilbert has also served as an Assistant and Head Coach of the NHL’s Calgary Flames for parts of four seasons, and he also worked as the Head Coach of three teams in the American Hockey League.
On the ice, Gilbert suited up for three seasons with the OHA/OHL’s Toronto Marlboros before embarking on a 15 year National Hockey League career where he was on the roster for three Stanley Cup champion teams, twice with the New York Islanders during their run of four straight Cup victories in the early 1980’s, and the 1994 edition of the New York Rangers. Gilbert appeared in 837 career games in the NHL recording 150 goals and 228 assists.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)