The Wenatchee Wild took a big step forward Saturday with the hiring of head coach Bliss Littler.
Littler, who coached the Wild to the Robertson Cup championship game last year, is the winningest coach in USA Hockey and has more than 600 wins on his résumé.
Wild president David White said Littler was the top choice for the position. White, who moved his franchise from Fresno, Calif., to Wenatchee, said he was in contact with Littler early on and expressed a strong interest in the longtime junior hockey coach.
“When we had the opportunity to relocate and operate as the Wild, he was our first choice from the beginning,” White said.
Littler signed a five-year deal and should play into the franchise’s quest for long-term success, something he expressed interest in shortly after his team’s relocation.
Littler will retain assistant coaches Tom Rudrud and Chris Clark, both of whom worked with Littler last season.
The veteran coach said staying in the Wenatchee community played a part in his decision to accept the position. “My family, we love it here,” he said.
Littler and his staff will have their work cut out for them as they work to put together a team.
Littler said he’s been in contact with some of the former Fresno Monsters players and that the coaching staff will have 10 players tendered for the 2013-14 season.
The team will use the North American Hockey League draft Tuesday to fill the rest of the open spots on the roster.
“Ideally, it’s not how you want to do things,” Littler said of the accelerated rebuilding phase. “But again, our intentions are the same — to be competitive. You want to win the last game of the year, just like everyone in the league.”
Littler was adamant the team can be competitive from the get-go. “We’re not conceding anything to anyone,” he said. “We expect to contend and that’s not going to change.”
Littler holds USA Hockey’s all-time junior hockey record for career wins with over 600 and brings 20 years of head coaching and general management experience to the Wild.?
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)