116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — This was kind of always the plan. It just might be happening a bit quicker than originally intended.
The Iowa Heartlanders officially announced Tuesday that Derek Damon will take over as head coach and general manager of the second-year ECHL professional hockey club. He replaces Gerry Fleming, who is expected to take a coaching position in European pro hockey.
Damon, 41, was an assistant for Fleming last season.
“I feel ready and excited about this opportunity,” Damon said. “When Gerry called last year (about being an assistant coach), we spoke about this, that when the time was right, he was going to hand it over to me. We feel that now is the time, that I am ready for this opportunity. This is something I’ve dreamed about.”
The Heartlanders went 29-33-9-1 in their inaugural season, finishing last in the seven-team Central Division. Fleming and Damon were hired last August.
Damon is a Bangor, Maine, native who played college hockey for the University of Maine. He played professionally in parts of 15 seasons, including two for the ECHL’s Florida Everblades under Fleming.
The vast majority of the forward’s career was spent in Europe, specifically Finland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark. He began his coaching career two years ago for Salmon Arm of the junior British Columbia Hockey League in Canada.
Damon is married, and he and his wife, Andrea, have three children: 7-year-old Elizabeth, 5-year-old Keith and 3-year-old Annabelle.
“We love it here,” Damon said. “My family loves it, my wife is ingrained in the community already. Our kids are in the school system. It’s a great area to raise a family. We feel very fortunate to be in this area right now.”
Damon already had been in contact with player agents, so recruiting for the 2022-23 team should not be affected much. The team recently announced forward Zach White has agreed to return to the club, and other returnees are expected to be announced soon.
Damon said forwards Kris Bennett and Ryan Kuffner, who were last season’s leading goal scorer and assist man, respectively, have signed to play next season in Switzerland and Germany, respectively.
Over the spring and summer, the Heartlanders, who are owned by Canadian businessman Dean MacDonald, have announced the hiring of a new team president (Tom Hamilton), new video coach (Eric Michaud) and new equipment manager (Greg Angus). Fleming and Damon were given promotions to general manager and assistant general manager, respectively.
Damon said he will take his team in hiring a new assistant coach.
“What Gerry and I were doing in the offseason was trying to put together a team that is going to take us to the next level,” he said. “Our goal is to win a Kelly Cup, that’s been our mindset throughout this whole process. We want to make sure we have the guys in place that are going to help us get there.”
Comments: (319)-398-8258, firstname.lastname@example.org