Iowa Heartlanders announce Derek Damon as new head coach

Damon, who was also named general manager, will replace former head coach Gerry Fleming, who stepped down to pursue opportunities overseas.


Jerod Ringwald

Derek Damon poses for a portrait during a press conference for the Iowa Heartlanders at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. The Heartlanders announced Damon will replace former head coach Gerry Fleming as Fleming pursues opportunities overseas.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

The Iowa Heartlanders have hired Derek Damon as their new head coach and general manager, the franchise announced Tuesday. 

Damon is the second head coach in club history after he served as the Heartlanders’ assistant coach during their inaugural season. Former Iowa head coach and general manager Gerry Fleming stepped down because he will pursue opportunities overseas. 

“It’s still the same plan,” Damon said at a press conference Tuesday. “What Gerry and I were trying to do this offseason is put a team in place that is going to help take us to the next level. Our goal is to win a Kelly Cup, that’s been our mindset throughout this whole process, and we want to make sure that we have the guys in place that are going to help us get there.”

Damon decided to take the higher position last week because he saw the opportunity as a natural career progression. When the job opened, Iowa Heartlanders president Tom Hamilton and Fleming gave Damon their support. Damon also received an endorsement from Glenn Stanford of Deacon Sports & Entertainment — the Heartlanders’ ownership group. 

“First and foremost, I liked the guy,” Hamilton said. “Secondly, I love there’s no separation between hockey and planning the excitement of hockey. He’s always been [a part of] that team and wanted to help, and I guess something I’ve learned as well is just when those teams come together, it’s even better.” 

Hamilton said Damon has an advantage because he comes to the Heartlanders with over a decade of hockey-playing experience. Hamilton also said the experience Damon gained coaching under Gerry is a plus as well. 

When Fleming called Damon about the assistant coach post last year, Fleming said he would hand over the head coaching reins to Damon when the time was right. Damon said they felt he was ready for the opportunity now, which the 41-year-old from Bangor, Maine, had dreamed about. 

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Before arriving in Coralville, Damon was the associate coach and director of player development in 2020-21 for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League — a junior hockey circuit. 

As a player, Damon competed collegiately at the University of Maine before beginning his professional career toward the end of the 2005-06 season.

His professional experience included competing in the ECHL and AHL, plus leagues across Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, and Germany until he hung up his skates in 2020. 

During Damon’s first season behind the Iowa bench, the Heartlanders went 29-33-9-1 (W-L-OTL-SOL) and finished last place in the ECHL Central Division. 

Because Fleming was placed into COVID-19 health and safety protocol for three games in December, Damon served as the acting head coach for those contests and won the final two over the Toledo Walleye on Dec. 10 and 11.

“It was exciting. It was fun. It was everything I thought it would be,” Damon said of that experience. “It was a little challenging at times dealing with the [COVID-19] situation that we had amongst the team, but it was awesome just to be behind the bench and running the bench. Gerry helped put me in place to be successful and I feel like I’ll carry that forwards into this year.” 

The Heartlanders open the season against the Idaho Steelheads on Oct. 21 at 7:05 p.m. in Xtream Arena. 

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