Exclusive By Terry Phillips
Andrew Lord is leaving Cardiff Devils – bringing to an end a trophy-laden six years with the club.
An emotional and tearful Lord revealed today that he is stepping down as the most successful head coach in the club’s history following half a dozen years of unprecedented success in Wales.
The Canadian has accepted a new coaching role in North America, understood to be in the USA.
He has not revealed where he is going – his new club are due to announce the news later today – but it was clear this was a tough decision for him to make.
Lord said he had three firm coaching job offers from abroad – two in Austria and another in North America. His decision to move on was finally confirmed when he signed a contract a couple of days ago and he revealed both he and owner Steve King broke down during their telephone call.
“It’s been brutal deciding,” said Lord. “If I could live two separate lives I’d be here forever – if you guys would let me.
“But the desire to see when I can do to test myself, see if I am any good at this thing and see how far I can go in the game was a major factor.
“I could stay in Cardiff and have an amazing life, but I need to see what I can do. I am jumping in at the deep end here.”
Devils won nine championships during the six years Lord was in charge, while he was also voted Elite League coach of the year.
He leaves the Devils as the most successful coach in the history of the franchise – winning three Conference Titles, two Challenge Cups, two Elite League titles and the last two play-off Championships for a total of nine trophies in six seasons.
The 2019/20 season was Lord’s sixth season as head coach. At the time the season was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Devils were in first place and were on pace to win their third Elite League title in four years.
Lord was hired when the new ownership took over in the summer of 2014 on the advice of former Cardiff Devil, Neil Francis, who recommended Lord be given the chance to coach.
He was initially hired as a player/coach to save money during that first season, but his coaching ability shone through even then.
“It’s hard to keep myself together and put into words what it all means,” said Lord.
“It’s been a fantastic ride and I have worked alongside so many good people. An incredible blast.
“It’s been difficult over the last 48 hours and so much was going through my head.”
Devils MD Kelman paid tribute to Lord, saying: “I have worked with a number coaches during my time as player, general manager and managing director. I would put Lordo top of the list.
“I knew this would happen at some point. Seven years in, six of those as head coach, Lordo is moving on to a new, fantastic opportunity.
“It’s a great time to move forward with his career. Personally, I am proud this has come his way.
“I genuinely did not think we would have him as long as we have. As a coach he is phenomenal, as a leader incredible and one of the best people I have ever met.
“It is emotional that he is leaving. Not just for me, but everybody who loves Cardiff Devils.”
Former Devils player Francis played a major role when Lord was named player-coach six seasons ago and says: “It goes back to when Todd and the four guys from Calgary – Steve King, Craig Shostak, Kelly Hughes, Brian Parker – took over the team. Our immediate goal was to win back the fan base and put a team on the ice to be proud of.
“When you think of Cardiff Devils one word pops up immediately – passion. Who could lead the team?
“Lordo was the first guy who came to mind. I got to know him a bit during the years building up to him coming to Cardiff and then personally when he arrived.
“He gives you everything in every single minute and then some. That’s the kind of guy needed.
“Lordo was the first choice, the only choice.
“The thing that impressed me the most was that he was removed from the peer group as a player to become player-coach. That is a ridiculously difficult role.
“I told him early on to set expectation levels, that his points production would halve because of his extra responsibilities. He had so many things to think about.
“But from the first practice he was confident and assured. He exceeded my expectations on the coaching front and also on the playing front.
“He ended up on our top line which became the best line in Elite League and, remarkably, increased his points production.
“That just shows what kind of guy he is.”
Lord led Devils to two League titles, two play-off championships, two Challenge Cup successes and three Conference titles during his time in Cardiff. He will be a tough act to follow.
Kelman, Francis and the Devils owners now launch their search for a new head coach and Lord revealed that three coaches had contacted him when they heard rumours of his departure.
He also talked about the new opportunity in North America, saying: “There was a lot of speculation about clubs in Austria and I seriously looked at those offers.
“But it would have been tough to leave Cardiff if it wasn’t for the reason or making it all the way. That may sound silly right now and there are a lot of steps ahead, hopefully.
“I’m going to be attached to an NHL team or two, while I will be in the mix with great coaches I can learn from and pick their brains.
“I’ll be in there asking a lot of questions. I am excited about the challenge, but right now I am thinking of all the memories. My head is spinning right now.
“There are waves of emotions. It’s been a crazy couple of days.”