December 16, 2011

Changes a Foot For British Ice Hockey

Following on from the news that 4 time Elite League winners Coventry have hit into money trouble their head coach Paul Thompson has now stepped down from his role as the Great Britain team head coach.

Thompson had taken charge of the national programme in 2007 and under his stewardship the national team rose up the IIHF ranking. The greatest achievement was probably the victory over the Ukraine in the 2011 World Championships when his side beat the home team live on Ukrainian television on their way to narrowly missing out on promotion to the full World Championship group.

Thompson added in a statement that he was leaving the post to concentrate on the crises at the Blaze and leaves Ice Hockey UK with a massive task of finding his replacement before the build up to the 2012 World Championships.

A successor however will be had to come by, as currently Thompson is the only British although Corey Nielsen of the Nottingham Panthers could be a frontrunner for the role. Nielsen although born in Canada did represent the Great Britain team in the last World Championships and his side currently sits second in the Elite League.

Another name could be Rob Wilson who has served as Paul Thompson’s assistant and has coached in the Elite League with Newcastle and is well known in the UK with fans and players. However Wilson is currently in charge of Italian side Neumarkt Egna that will make him an unlikely candidate.

Tony Hand’s name could also be on a shortlist. Hand has also been an assistant under Paul Thompson and has coached in the Elite League with Belfast, Edinburgh and Manchester. Like Wilson, Hand is extremely well known within the game and with the players and was also a member of the last Great Britain team to play in the World Championship group. However Hand is currently the player coach of the second tier Manchester Phoenix and like Wilson would find in difficult to watch the players enough times to be able to pick the best squad. 

Ice Hockey UK may opt for a foreign coach and that could open the door to Doug Christiansen of the Belfast Giants.

Two things are for certain. One is that this is a huge job to fill and is immensely difficult given the time with players and lack of funding. The second is that there is not a long list of candidates with the experience, knowledge, success and perseverance needed to kept the Great Britain team moving forward.

Neil Tucker

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