As a centreman, Dave Whistle won three club scoring titles. When he later turned his hand to coaching, he was twice named Coach of the Year when his teams were crowned champions of the Superleague.
Dave arrived in Britain in the autumn of 1991 to play for Billingham Bombers and by the time he joined Bracknell Bees for the 1995-96 season it was his fifth club in as many years. With three of them – the Bombers, Romford Raiders and Telford Tigers – he was the leading points scorer.
The summer of 1996 brought big changes in the game with the formation of the professional Superleague, which included the Bees. But Whistle, then 30, swiftly adapted to the rise in playing standards and contributed 46 points.
Midway through the following season, he temporarily moved behind the bench in coach Jim Fyarchuk’s absence. When this coincided with a run of victories and to Bees contesting their first cup final in ten years, he took over as head coach.
He recruited a couple of ex-NHLers and in the spring of 1999 Bracknell reached the semi-finals of the Play-off Championships at Manchester. The following season he steered his men to the top of the Sekonda Superleague, their first title in 11 years, and was voted Coach of the Year by the sport’s journalists.
Whistle’s talent for finding a good player on a low budget, combined with his ability to motivate his team and teach them to play fast, attractive hockey drew the attention of the fledgling Belfast Giants, who signed him for their inaugural 2000-01 campaign.
The quietly spoken coach persuaded six of his league champion Bees to join him, including top scorer Kevin Riehl, defender Todd Kelman, future Hall of Famer Rob Stewart and popular hard man Paxton Schulte.
Remarkably, in only his second season at the helm, the Giants put on the league crown as early as January and went on to win by an eye-popping 21 points. When the club made it to the Challenge Cup final as well, their boss was a shoo-in for his second Coach of the Year honour.
In his final winter in the Northern Ireland capital, ‘Whis’ enjoyed his best coaching season to date. After the Giants qualified for the Super Final of the prestigious Continental Cup at home, he cajoled his injury-hit charges to victory in the last Superleague Play-off Championship weekend. In a fittingly memorable finale, Riehl’s penalty shot was the only goal that counted in the scoreless game after London Knights took the Giants into overtime.
This led to another upward move when he was signed by leading German DEL club Iserlohn Roosters for season 2003-04. It was a brief stop, however, and he returned in summer 2004 to spend 18 months with the Bob Phillips-owned Cardiff Devils, usually behind the bench and sometimes doubling as manager.
When Philips added Sheffield Steelers to his portfolio in 2005, he transferred Whistle there as the club’s director of hockey. Later he took over behind the bench, steering the Steelers to another
overtime/shootout thriller in the final of the Play-off Championships, this time losing to his old team, Cardiff. When the Steelers won the Knock-Out Cup, it was his fourth trophy as a coach.
The Great Britain team recognised his mentoring skills in 1999-2000 when he assisted head coach Peter Woods on three occasions – in November for a World Championship Pool A qualifying tournament, in February for an Olympic Qualifying round, and in April for Pool B of the World Championships.
David Whistle was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario on 27 January 1966. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.