Recently, though, the ex-bench boss revealed just how much he appreciated the gig. In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, Noel explained how emotional he was upon being dismissed in mid-January:
FP: How emotional of an experience was getting fired ?
CN: I did cry but not there. I felt it was coming. I knew what was happening. I wasn’t shocked by it. It was a short meeting with Kevin and we didn’t talk much about it. I had some questions. Just the nuts and bolts. I held my head high. Where it was emotional for me, it was tough to go in the office that evening and pack my stuff. And then walk around the locker-room one last time. I was alone there. It was hard.
FP: Did you feel a sense of relief when you were fired?
CN: Not really relief. It took me about three weeks or so to do deal with myself. Then I woke up one day and said the grieving period is over, and we have to move on.
I wasn’t really angry, it’s part of the grief, yes. You can’t see clearly, you start blaming anything and everything. I’ve been through this process before, so I had an idea. You have to be able to see clearly in how you deal with the truth. You have to be honest with yourself and say ‘how much of it was you?’ I wrestled a bit too, and I was blaming here and there, and I had to go back and say ‘Better look here. Could you, and should you have?’ I’ve done that before. Before, it took me over a year to sort it out. Back then, I didn’t want to deal with some things. But I was way better this time, and I was able to look more clearly.
It’ll be interesting to see where Noel’s career takes him. Statistically speaking, his 80-79-18 record in the NHL (with both Columbus and Winnipeg) could warrant him a look elsewhere, and he did perform well with the Blue Jackets in 2009-10, inheriting a team that basically tuned out Ken Hitchcock and getting it to finish 10-8-6 over the final 24 games of the year.
That said, Noel turns 59 in October and was already one of the league’s oldest coaches when he got turfed. Perhaps that’s why he said he’d be open to a return to the AHL — he won a Calder Cup with Milwaukee in 2004 — or even try his hand in the KHL or another European league.