It’s not even lunchtime yet and we’re already in the midst of a busy news day in the Elite League: the Cardiff Devils appointed Brodie Dupont as their full-time head coach just hours before EIHL HQ announced important changes to gameday roster rules.
There’s a lot to unpack, starting at Ice Arena Wales.
Brodie Dupont: ‘I don’t feel like a rookie head coach’
It’s official: Dupont is in as Cardiff’s head coach after leading the Devils to their third consecutive Playoff Championship earlier this month.
“I am excited to get started and looking forward to bringing the core of the team back from last season,” the 35-year-old told the club’s website. “We had a great group, and we all got a taste of winning a championship last season, so guys are hungry to win again. So am I.”
Dupont signed for Cardiff at the start of 2021-22 as a player/assistant coach but retired from playing midway through the season due to injury. The one-time New York Ranger was appointed interim head coach in the final weeks of the regular-season, replacing the departed Jarrod Skalde.
“I understand how big of an opportunity this is for me, but I am definitely prepared for this,” he explained. “I don’t feel like a rookie head coach, I feel like this is what I have been preparing for the last number of years.”
Todd Kelman, managing director of the Devils, hailed Dupont’s immediate impact behind the bench and backed him to enjoy further success in the future.
“We took the decision with two weeks left in the season to make a coaching change, and the plan was to give Brodie the chance to prove himself as a head coach, which he obviously did,” the 47-year-old explained.
“We saw the way the guys responded to him, to his coaching style, to him as a leader. This guy deserves to be a Head Coach and speaking on behalf of the owners, Neil Francis, myself, and the rest of the organisation, we are very comfortable with Brodie as our head coach.”
Cardiff’s decision to switch Skalde, who already had plenty of coaching experience before landing in Wales, for Dupont, who had none, certainly jumps off the page. But that doesn’t mean the Devils have misstepped.
Dupont’s enthusiasm at Playoff Finals Weekend was infectious. He was keen to make the most of his audition in the hotseat and certainly did. Moments after Cardiff lifted the trophy at Motorpoint Arena, British Ice Hockey asked numerous Devils for their opinion on his impact.
Josh Waller said: “He’s been massive. He’s come in, done a tremendous job, and got all the boys on the same page. It’s obviously not an easy thing to do, to take over at the end of the year with a playoff push, but he’s done an unbelievable job and it’s paid off tonight.”
Cole Sandford added: “I think he’s been great. He was in a tough spot: it’s not easy to step in halfway through or at the end of the season like that. The proof’s in the pudding – look at our defensive zone: we bent but we didn’t break. Brody deserves a lot of credit.”
Speaking minutes after winning a championship game, Waller and Sandford had no reason to be critical of their then-interim head coach. He’d delivered them to the promised land. However, their answers indicate that Dupont commanded the respect of his players from the minute he first stepped behind the bench.
Interim coaches are often handed the ‘substitute teacher’ tag – but that doesn’t seem to apply in Cardiff. If his players, bosses, and fans believe in him: Dupont is the right choice for the Devils. And they do.
Elite League Agrees on Bench Extension for 2022-23
After a season of three-line hockey, the Elite League’s member clubs have agreed to extend gameday rosters for 2022-23.
“Following agreement among the Premier Sports Elite League’s ten member teams, the gameday roster will be increased for the next season,” a league statement reads.
Clubs will be entitled to ice up to 20 players per game in 2022-23, including a maximum of 14 non-homegrowns.
“The maximum number of non-homegrown players that can be signed in a single season, excluding injury reserve, remains at 20,” Elite League bosses added.
2022/23 Gameday roster | #EIHL
Teams have agreed to increase the gameday roster in 2022/23 to 20 players (2 goalies + 18 skaters).
— Premier Sports Elite League | #EIHL (@officialEIHL) May 18, 2022
Ultimately, the Elite League’s decision to extend benches is a positive development: four-line hockey is better than the alternative and operating with full rosters will help the Belfast Giants and Devils in Europe next season.
However, questions will be asked – as they always are – if more could be done to promote British talent in the top-flight.
According to statistics released by the Elite League, an average of 13.1 non-homegrown players participated in each fixture last season. Stuart Coles, who provides colour commentary for the Coventry Blaze, argued on social media that dropping the gameday import limit to 13 might’ve been a logical next step.
That said, the Elite League has always struggled to balance player development against non-homegrown rules – with the scales heavily tipped in the latter’s favour.
There is also the argument that extending gameday rosters will widen the gap between the Elite League’s arena and rink clubs. However, Belfast finished 34 points up the road of the 5th-placed Guildford Flames with shorter benches last season, suggesting roster size isn’t the answer to securing parity.
For now, then, let’s celebrate the return of four-line hockey and wait with bated breath to see if clubs use longer benches to aid the development of local talent. Fingers crossed.