WHEELING, W.Va. – Who says you can’t go home again? Don’t tell that to newly minted Wheeling Nailers assistant head coach Derek Army, who rejoins the team to help head coach Mark French lead the team back to the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Army joins the Nailers after spending a season-and-a-half as the assistant coach for the Worcester Railers. Both Army and head coach Jamie Russell were replaced on November 27, 2019, after the Railers got off to a slow start that they couldn’t recover from.
As a player, the North Kingstown, Rhode Island native joined the Nailers late in the 2013-14 season after finishing his college career at Providence College. Army scored three goals and an assist in four games that season and dressed in three postseason games that year.
The following season Army played all 72 games for the Nailers recording 29 goals and 37 assists for 66 points, second-best on the team. In the 2015-16 season, he suited up for four different AHL teams but returned to Wheeling for the postseason and helped lead the team to the Eastern Conference title and Kelly Cup Finals appearance. Army finished his career in the black and Vegas gold with 59 goals and 71 assists in 159 games (130 points). He also served as captain during his final two seasons in Wheeling.
The Army family has another coach in it as Derek’s dad, Tim Army, is currently the head coach of the AHL’s Iowa Wild. Tim has held various coaching jobs throughout hockey.
“For me, it is important to get winners associated with the organization and obviously Derek has got the pedigree” Nailers head coach Mark French said. “I think as well he quickly got to coaching with his two years in the ECHL is just a great help to me not knowing the league. He’s very current, he’s very hungry and brings a lot of those same characteristics that I think people really loved about him as a player and a coach. His loyalty, his work ethic, and his skill will really benefit the players and me.”
“I’m really excited to be back in Wheeling,” Army said during his introduction on a Zoom call. “As a player, I developed a lot there [Wheeling] and was kinda able to make it sort of a second home and the fans took me in from the start. I met some of my best friends there.
“Getting into coaching is always what I wanted to do and the last two years were great. I learned a lot under the head coach Jamie Russell and now I look forward to being with Mark and when I spoke with him right away I could tell that he has an incredible resume and an incredible run everywhere he’s been and he’s won everywhere he’s been.” Army continued.
Army becomes the third former Nailers player to accept a full-time coaching role with the team, following Joe Harney and Chris Jensen. Tim Tisdale, Terry Virtue, and Ron Wilson all held separate roles, as they were player/assistant coaches.