Team GB in Tony’s hands

Still playing Hand replaces Thompson as Great Britain coach

30.12.2011
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British hockey idol Tony Hand will be Great Britain’s new national coach. Photo: IIHF Archive

LONDON – Ice Hockey UK appointed Tony Hand as new head coach of Great Britain’s national team.

Hand signed a four-year contract to replace Paul Thompson, who had been coaching the team for the last five years.

The Edinburgh-born 44-year-old is currently the player-coach of English Premier League team Manchester Phoenix and will work in a dual role for club and national team.

The Scotsman became the first British-raised player to be drafted by an NHL team when he was selected by Edmonton Oilers in 1986.

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’s Victoria Cougars.

Hand felt homesick and has been playing in Great Britain ever since. He scored over 4,000 scoring in his career with the Murrayfield Racers, Sheffield Steelers, Ayr Scottish Eagles, Dundee Stars, Edinburgh Capitals, Belfast Giants and Manchester Phoenix.

His first coaching role was in the British National League with Dundee Stars, and has also had spells with Edinburgh Capitals and Belfast Giants in the Elite League, before joining Manchester in 2007.

“I am proud to be appointed to the role of head coach and am very excited about the challenge. I am looking forward to working with some fantastic players and it will be a great honour and privilege to coach the national team,” Hand said in an official announcement.

“I am following in some great footsteps in Paul Thompson, who did a fantastic job in his time as GB coach,” said Hand, who was given the Membership of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to hockey.

Great Britain hasn’t been among the elite nations since the 1994 IIHF World Championship in Italy. Hand was part of that team as a player and also represented Great Britain in nine lower-tier World Championships, most recently in 2007.

“Tony stood out from all the rest. He is a legend in British ice hockey and is well-known throughout the ice hockey world,” Andy French, Ice Hockey UK’s General Secretary, said about the appointment. “I am sure Tony will be able to build on the fantastic work done by Paul Thompson and keep GB challenging for promotion to the top flight.”

Great Britain will participate in the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where the best two of the six participating teams will be promoted to the top division in 2013.

The other teams battling for promotion are Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Japan and Ukraine.

MARTIN MERK
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