"We could not be more excited to have Jamie [Russell] on board as our new head coach," said Jackals owner Nate Cook. "The Buffalo Sabres organization gave us tremendous support and assistance throughout the entire search process. After a lengthy round of interviews, we agreed with the Buffalo organization that Jamie [Russell] was our number one coaching candidate."
The Elmira Jackals ownership worked in conjunction with the Buffalo Sabres organization throughout the coaching search. A couple of Sabres executives played key roles in narrowing down the qualified candidates as well as providing insight and input during the interviewing process.
"I'm extremely excited for this opportunity," said Russell. "I want to thank Tom Freeman and Nate Cook as well as the Buffalo Sabres organization - Joe Battista and Toby O'Brien. The Jackals will be reborn with this ownership group, the Sabres affiliation and a new coach. We have the opportunity to build something very special. We will be a team that plays the game with passion and an outstanding work ethic and we will make First Arena a tough place to play. I am excited to get going and start laying the foundation to build a championship culture."
Russell, 47, joins the Jackals following three seasons as an assistant coach at Providence College. While there he coached and developed a stout defensive unit that allowed the seventh-fewest goals in the NCAA last season. The Kamloops, British Columbia native also coached the team's penalty killing unit, which ranked third in the nation in 2014. He contributed to a program-record three consecutive Hockey East semifinal appearances, helped guide the Friars last year to their first NCAA tournament since 2001 and in that same season posted the third highest win total in program history.
"On behalf of the Sabres, we are really excited to welcome Coach Russell into the family," said Buffalo Sabres Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Battista. "He brings the experience as a player and coach and a tremendous network of coaches and players throughout the hockey world. His experience in recruiting and developing young players is outstanding and the fans of Elmira will enjoy the energy and style of play his teams will bring to the arena."
Russell brings some head coaching experience with him to the Jackals' bench, as well. He was the bench boss at Michigan Tech University from 2003-2011. During his tenure there he ranked second in program history for career wins, was named the 2007 WCHA Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the 2007 NCAA National Coach of the Year. In the 2006-2007 season, Russell steered the Huskies to the their highest season win total since 1995 and recorded their best conference finish since 1992. He coached one Hobey Baker Award finalist, two All-Americans, five All-WCHA selections, 60 WCHA All-Academic selections and 16 WCHA Scholar athletes.
"I've known Jamie for a long time as a coach and person, he brings character, commitment and leadership that the players and fans of Elmira will really like," said Buffalo Sabres NCAA and USA scout Toby O'Brien. "The big thing is that I feel he is truly excited about the opportunity to build a strong and winning program in Elmira. It's been a pleasure to be part of the selection process."
Russell also has roots in the region dating back to his stint as the lead assistant coach at Cornell University from 1999-2003. He helped mold Cornell into a national powerhouse during his time there. Russell was responsible for the NCAA's top ranked scoring defense and the nation's top ranked penalty kill unit. The Big Red qualified for two NCAA tournaments, advanced to one Frozen Four appearance, won two ECAC regular season championships, the 2003 ECAC Tournament championship and was ranked number one in the nation for the first time in program history. Prior to joining Cornell's staff Russell served as an assistant coach at Ferris State University from 1994-1999.
Russell does bring ECHL experience to Elmira from his playing days. The former defenseman spent two seasons with the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds. He recorded 25 points (6 goals, 19 assists) and 66 penalty minutes in 64 games and captained the Thunderbirds during the 1989-90 campaign. Russell also played four games in the American Hockey League with the Binghamton Whalers during the 1989-90 season. He played his collegiate hockey at Michigan Tech from 1986-89.
The new bench boss will be in attendance at the Sabres Draft Party at Splitrock Brew Pub tonight for a meet-and-greet with the fans.