ESTERO — Head coach Greg Poss will not return to the Everblades next season, marking the end of an era for the hockey club.
Poss accepted the head coaching job with EC Red Bull Salzburg — which is owned by Red Bull, the energy drink company — of the Austrian Hockey League (EBEL) on Thursday.
“We had six really good years. I’m very grateful for my assistant coaches, Brad Tapper and Tad O’Had, along with all the other people in the organization,” Poss said. “It’s been a pleasure to work here. For a coach, being in one place for six years is a long time. It doesn’t happen often that a coach stays this long in one city. I’m grateful, but now it is time for a new challenge.”
The 50-year-old coach had an overall regular season record of 249-144-28, and the Blades qualified for the playoffs during five of his six seasons in Estero. Only Gerry Fleming, who coached Florida for seven years from 2001-2008, remained with the team longer.
The highlight of his career came during the 2011-2012 season, when he guided the Blades to their first Kelly Cup championship in franchise history.
With an ECHL championship under his belt, Poss had become a desirable commodity in the hockey community. Blades president and general manager Craig Brush allowed Poss to evaluate other potential opportunities each offseason, but the coach stayed committed to Florida.
“He and I talked every year since we won the Kelly Cup. His objective was to move up in the hockey world if he could,” Brush said. “He was looking at different opportunities, and fortunately for us they didn’t surface to the degree that made him move, so he came back every year.”
Transitioning to life in Europe shouldn’t be difficult for the Green Bay, Wis. native. Poss began his coaching career in Germany in 1996, and he remained in the country until he filled the vacancy behind the Blades’ bench in 2010.
Still hoping to one day coach in the NHL, Salzburg offers Poss an opportunity to work with a stable roster — unlike the ever-changing player personnel found in the ECHL.
“I talked to a couple players today who have been playing with Red Bull for over 10 years,” Poss said. “They have families who live there. There is a very strong identification with the team. You don’t have the player fluctuation like we do (in the ECHL). You pretty much have the same team from start to finish. They play in the top league in the country, so they can’t go any higher.”
The Red Bulls won each of the past two Austrian League championships, and the team’s coaching position is one of the premier jobs in European hockey.
“It’s the pinnacle of Europe,” Poss said. “Of course I always want to reach the highest level in North America by coaching in the best league in the world, and that is the NHL. After talking with a lot of hockey people, this is a step that could really help me get there.”
While Poss prepares for the upcoming season in Austria, the Blades will be searching for someone new to head-man the team.
Brush hasn’t set a particular timetable to fill the coaching void. However, many candidates have already applied for the vacant position.
“I don’t expect to fill the job tomorrow. I want to get the best candidate,” Brush said. “Quite frankly, my email is getting full from resumes that I am already receiving. I’ll sort through those over the next two or three weeks, and I’ll cut those down to a workable number and select somebody from that group.”
Brush confirmed assistant coach Tad O’Had will be a contender for the job.