Zirnis takes over for Howard as head coach in Nashville
August 5, 2014
New Nashville Jr. Predators head coach Karlis Zirnis.
The Nashville Jr. Predators of the NA3HL have announced that head coach Steve Howard has accepted in the Assistant Coaching position with the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL and Predators then announced the hiring of Karlis Zirnis as the club’s new head coach.
"We want to congratulate Steve Howard on his promotion to the USHL. We wish him good luck in the upcoming season. We are also very excited to have someone of Karlis’ hockey background and caliber to come in and lead the Jr. Predators in their first season in the NA3HL,” said General Manager JP Dumont.
Zirnis will enter his first season as the head coach of the Nashville Junior Predators hockey Club. He is an outstanding recruiter, and professional skills coach with a passion to teach the game. Zirnis has been coaching TPH Thunder for last seven years. He also works with the Latvian National Men’s Team. Most recently Karlis was the assistant coach at the Sochi Olympic games, and World Championships in Belarus.
Zirnis was born in Latvia and played for the Latvian Hockey Junior Club until he was 17, winning the Latvian Championship in 1995. He played on the World Junior Championship U18 team in 1995 and the U20 team in 1996 and 1997. Because of his outstanding play, he was invited to the tryout camp for the Latvian Olympic Team in 2002. Karlis went on to play in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) for the Gaylord Grizzlies and earned a scholarship to the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
During his college hockey career, Karlis won the College Hockey America conference scoring title his sophomore and junior year, was named pre-season player of the year in 2002-2003, and is on the All-Time Top 20 scoring list for the former collegiate conference. After college, Karlis played professional hockey in the Central Hockey League with the Colorado Eagles. During his 2004-2005 season, the Eagles were the 2005 CHL Bud Poile Governor’s Cup Champions and the 2005 CHL Ray Miron President’s Cup Champions. Karlis’s stick currently rests in the hockey Hall of Fame to celebrate his Central Hockey League Championship. This past season, Karlis was part of the coaching staff for the Latvian World Junior Championship team and also supported Buffalo Sabers Head Coach in the NHL, Ted Nolan at past year’s World Championships with Latvia.
Coach Karlis lives in Nashville with his wife Michelle and their two children Kiya and Kamden.
Howard was hired as an assistant by the Waterloo Black Hawks after leading the Flint Junior Generals to a 42-4-2 record during his club’s final season in Michigan.
Howard was named the NA3HL Coach of the Year last spring following the Junior Generals’ superlative effort, which included winning the league’s Eastern Division title and finishing as runner-up for the circuit’s Silver Cup playoff championship. Flint qualified for USA Hockey’s 2014 Tier III National Junior Tournament and won two of three games during their trip to the event in Simsbury, Connecticut. The 2013-14 season was Howard’s second with the Junior Generals. He has prior experience with Black Hawks organization, scouting talent in Michigan for Waterloo.
“I’m obviously thankful to the Black Hawks for this opportunity,” Howard said. “At the same time I am very thankful to JP Dumont and Tim McAllister for giving me the opportunity in Nashville. I was excited about the upcoming season and know that they have a very good coach in Karlis Zirnis to lead the way this year. The NA3HL was a great place for me to develop and I am also thankful to the league for providing me the opportunity to develop as a coach and help mold players for the next stage in their hockey careers.”
As a player, hockey took Howard across the country and then around the world. The Burton, Michigan, native began his professional career in 2001, appearing as a defenseman for teams in Texas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, New Jersey, and California over the next five seasons. During the winter of 2005-06, Howard skated in Korea. His playing career was capped by a stint in Holland during 2007-08.
“We are extremely pleased to bring Steve to our program fulltime,” said Black Hawks Head Coach P.K. O’Handley. “In addition to the wonderful success he has had so far in his coaching career, his experiences in professional hockey will be an asset to the Black Hawks as we try to foster a ever-increasing degree of professionalism in the young players coming here for development on and off the ice.”