Boise, Idaho – The Idaho Steelheads announced that Neil Graham has been named the team’s new head coach and director of hockey operations.
The Steelheads are the ECHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League and the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.
Graham replaces Brad Ralph, who resigned Tuesday to become the head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets. Graham served as Ralph’s full-time assistant each of the past two seasons after serving as a player/coach for the Steelheads during the 2012-13 season. At 30-years-old, Graham is the youngest head coach in Steelheads’ history and also the youngest bench boss currently in the ECHL.
“I’m extremely excited for this opportunity,” Graham said. “We have a lot of good players coming back and coming in, so I’m excited to get to work. My wife and I call Boise home, the community has really embraced us and I’m ready to put together a team that will represent it as well as it has for the past two decades.”
Graham becomes the fifth head coach during Idaho’s ECHL tenure and seventh overall since pro hockey arrived in Idaho in 1997.
“We’re very happy that Neil has stayed on-board and become our Head Coach,” team President Eric Trapp said. “We had a lot of interest in the position but we quickly decided that Neil was the best fit for us. He’s been involved in all avenues of coaching at this level, from budgeting to recruiting to on-ice, we’re excited to keep the program moving forward and we expect him to be very successful as the head coach.”
As Idaho’s assistant the past two seasons, Graham’s primary on-ice duties involved the team’s defense and penalty-kill units. Both groups ranked in the top five in the ECHL last season, as Idaho allowed just 2.6 goals per game (ranked 5th in ECHL) and successfully killed off 86 percent of the penalties it faced (4th).
The Calgary, Alberta, native is a graduate of Mercyhurt University where he played hockey for four seasons before turning pro. He split three seasons between the ECHL and Southern Professional Hockey League, scoring 42 goals and adding 56 assists in 113 professional games, before changing his career focus to coaching.