Tony Hand grabbing for 4000

Milestone on horizon for British standout

27.11.2008
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Manchester Phoenix' British hockey idol Tony Hand could grab his 4000th point this weekend. Photo: Richard Murray

MANCHESTER, Great Britain – Manchester Phoenix player-coach Tony Hand is eyeing his 4000th scoring point in British club hockey. He came close to the milestone last Sunday in his hometown Edinburgh and is expected to crack the 4000-mark next weekend.

The Scotsman became the first British-trained hockey player to be drafted by an NHL club when the Edmonton Oilers picked him in the 12th round, 252nd overall, in 1986. He’s often regarded as the best British-produced player ever. After the draft, he participated for two weeks in Edmonton’s pre-season camp with the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier and was offered a spot on a Canadian junior hockey roster.

But his career in North America didn’t last long as he played just three games, with eight points (4+4), for the WHL Victoria Cougars. He was homesick and has been in Great Britain ever since, despite offers to play on Edmonton’s farm team, and in Finland and Switzerland.

As short as his stunt in Canada was, his career in Britain was just as long. In his best season with the Murrayfield Racers in 1993-1994, he collected 222 points (72+150) in just 44 games. And while in his 40s, he notched 87 points last season for the Manchester Phoenix, the team he’s also coached since 2006. The 41-year-old is currently in his 26th season in the British pro league.

Internationally, he represented Great Britain in the 1994 IIHF World Championship A-pool and in ten lower division world championships,

The end of his career is not in sight as in the moment, he’s a sought-after player. He has 3,999 scoring points in British club ice hockey. He was close to the 4,000th last Sunday when his team won 6-4 in his native Edinburgh but he had to do with ‘just’ five points.

“I’d love to have done it there, it’s where I began my career and my mum, wife and children were all there, but sadly it wasn’t to be,” Hand said. However, everyone who looks at his scoring figures might doubt that the 4000-point landmark won’t be cracked next weekend when the Phoenix have two games.

While Hand, who was given the Membership of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to hockey, missed the 4,000-mark, he could at least be pleased with a successful weekend that kept his team in fifth place.

MARTIN MERK

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