- Hockey Operations
Derek Army was named Head Coach & Director of Hockey Operations of the Wheeling Nailers on June 4, 2021. Before being named head coach, he served as Interim Head Coach and Assistant Coach.
Army, 31, played the majority of his career with the Nailers and was a fan favorite, both for his tremendous contributions on the ice, as well as his outgoing personality with the fans and in the community. Derek first came to Wheeling in April of 2014, after finishing his college career at Providence College. He netted three goals in his first four games, then suited up in three playoff contests as the team reached the second round. In 2014-15, the North Kingstown, Rhode Island native led the Nailers with 29 goals and ranked second on the club with 66 points. The following year, Army saw action with four different AHL teams, but returned to Wheeling to be a key contributor, helping the club win the Eastern Conference. Derek was the captain during each of his final two seasons as a player for the Nailers. His career numbers in Wheeling were 59 goals, 71 assists, and 130 points in 159 games. He is one of just five players in team history to play in parts of five seasons with the Nailers.
Following his career as a player, Derek immediately joined the coaching ranks, as he worked as an assistant coach under Jamie Russell with the Worcester Railers during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. The Railers posted a 32-29-11 record during his first season, and missed out on the playoffs by only four points. The Army family has seen a lot of success in the hockey world, particularly with coaching. Derek's father Tim has been a coach at various levels from the NHL and AHL to the NCAA since 1987-88, and is currently the head coach for the AHL's Iowa Wild. Prior to that, Tim worked as an assistant coach for Clark Donatelli with the 2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Derek, Tim, and Derek's grandfather Tom all played at Providence College.
Army becomes the third former Nailers player to accept a full-time coaching role with the team, following Joe Harney and Chris Jensen. Tim Tisdale, Terry Virtue, and Ron Wilson all held separate roles, as they were player/assistant coaches.
Derek and his wife Jenn have a son named Boone, a daughter named Adelina, and a dog named Puck.
Mitch Giguere was named Assistant Coach of the Wheeling Nailers on August 24, 2023.
Giguere, 37, has held a wide variety of roles in hockey over the past decade, as he has served as a coach, general manager, scout, and team consultant. Mitch began his coaching journey in 2008 when his playing career ended, and has since advanced to coach in prestigious leagues such as the Kontinental Hockey League, the Québec Major Junior Hockey League, the Western Hockey League, and the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. One of his greatest accomplishments came in 2021-22, when he returned to North America with Longueuil Collège-Français and won the Napa Cup as a QJHL Champion. Giguere also earned a certified Canadian Sport Institute Advanced Coaching Diploma, which took two years of studying to achieve.
In addition to the team successes he has enjoyed, the Montréal, Québec native has also played a large role in developing players, and seeing those players reach the highest levels of professional hockey. One of the most recent players Mitch coached was Pittsburgh Penguins 2022 first round draft pick Owen Pickering, when Pickering was an Elite 15 at RINK Hockey Academy, with fellow NHL draft picks Daimon Gardner and Josh Filmon. Giguere has also had the opportunity to coach current Penguin Sam Poulin, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard of the Montréal Canadiens, and Edmonton Oilers prospect Olivier Rodrigue. Hockey Québec is another organization that Mitch has been heavily involved with, and that led to him working with Stanley Cup Champion Samuel Girard and Los Angeles Kings forward Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Mitch and his wife Audrey are moving to Wheeling with their four children - daughters Maxim (15), Alexe (13), and Leoni (7), and son Louis (5).
Equipment & Training Staff
Bill Higgins grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia, where he was an avid fan of the Thunderbirds and Nailers. A graduate of Wheeling Park High School, Higgins began his career with the Nailers as an assistant equipment manager, before being promoted to the head role in 2003. Bill is the only member of the organization to ever work 1,000 games, as he reached that milestone during the 2016-17 season. Other notable career accomplishments for Higgins include working the 2007 ECHL All-Star Classic in Boise, Idaho, and being named the 2013-14 ECHL Equipment Manager of the Year. 2023-24 will be Higgins' 21st season as the team's equipment manager.
Lauren Rittle is beginning her second season in professional sports and third season as a head athletic trainer in hockey, as she held that role with the USHL's Fargo Force during the 2021-22 campaign. Lauren has spent a significant amount of time around the rinks while advancing in her career, as she worked with the men's and women's hockey teams at Robert Morris University, as well as the NAHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights.
Rittle gained a plethora of experience while attending college as well. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Athletic Training at the University of Pittsburgh, while working for the Panthers. Lauren then went on to East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a Master's Degree in Athletic Training. After graduating, she spent two years as the athletic trainer for the swimming and tennis teams at Virginia Tech.
Lauren is one of four female athletic trainers in the ECHL this season, as she joins Jasmine Honey of the Adirondack Thunder, Megan Monjeau of the Iowa Heartlanders, and Brie Donelson of the Newfoundland Growlers.