GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Griffins are losing head coach Todd Nelson to the NHL.
Nelson is heading to the Dallas Stars, where he will serve as an assistant coach, according to a Thursday news release from the Griffins.
“I think it’s going to be a great situation, but it was a tough decision to make. I was very conflicted and it’s hard not to get emotional about it,” Nelson told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday. “But all the support from the players, my phone’s been blowing up, they’re all rooting for me, but it makes a coach feel real good.”
In his three seasons as head coach with the Griffins, Nelson led the team to three playoff appearances and a Calder Cup in 2017.
Nelson was also the first player ever signed to a Griffins contract ahead of the team’s inaugural season in 1996. In his 236 games, Nelson racked up 67 points as a defenseman.
Before that, Nelson played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.
The Griffins also gave Nelson his coaching start in 2002, when he became a full-time assistant coach for a season, helping the team reach the Western Conference Finals.
Nelson told 24 Hour News 8 it would be “very difficult” to leave the organization.
“A lot of good people here. I have a lot of good friends. It’s a great city,” he said. “But I just felt it was time for another chapter in my life. I feel that I have to go back up there and stay current with the system, work and the players and get some more NHL experience. I think that that’s the last thing on my resume that I really needed is to be more experienced at the NHL level, so I’m very excited.”
Nelson’s previous stints with the NHL including serving as assistant to the Atlanta Thrashers from 2008 to 2010, and interim head coach for the Edmonton Oilers during their 2014-2015 season.
Nelson also previously coached the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons and served as an assistant for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.