Pete Russell has been appointed as the new head coach of Great Britain Men.
The 40-year-old, who won gold with GB Under-20s last month to lead them back into Division 1B of the IIHF U20 World Championship, replaces Doug Christiansen. He will be assisted by Tommy Watkins and Richard Hartmann and the trio’s first tournament in charge will be April’s World Championship (Division 1B) in the Netherlands.
Russell is Great Britain’s most successful junior coach and has won four golds, one silver and two bronze medals in 11 tournaments in charge of GB U20s and GB U18s.
The Ayr-born former netminder, who is coach of Swindon-based Okanagan Hockey Academy, had a successful time in charge of EPL side Slough Jets, winning the playoffs and coach of the year in 2009-10 and the EPL Cup in 2010-11.
He has also had spells as coach of Swindon Wildcats and Bracknell Bees, while Russell also worked in the Superleague with Ayr Scottish Eagles and in the Elite League with Cardiff Devils.
Russell said: “This is the proudest moment of my hockey career and I am so thrilled to be the new head coach.
“My passion for GB runs deep and now to be coach of the men’s side is just fantastic.
“I know so many of the GB players having coached them in the junior sides in years gone by. I know how much they care and how much they love their country.
“Becoming head coach of GB Men has always been an ambition of mine and I now want to do Great Britain proud in my time in charge.
“This is a dream come true for me and I can’t wait to get going. It’s a new beginning for Great Britain Men and I will select my team – one to start a new era for GB.
“I am really excited to be surrounded by a great management and coaching team in Andy Buxton, Richard Hartmann and Tommy Watkins.
“I’d like to thank Ice Hockey UK and Paul Thompson for their belief in me and the opportunity to hold one of the most prestigious jobs in sport.”
Watkins is currently assistant to Russell with GB U20s and also head coach of EPL league leaders Telford Tigers.
The 36-year-old said: “It’s an honour to be part of the national programme. It is something I have relished as a player and coach.
“It gives me huge pride to represent my country and I can’t wait to work with staff and squad.”
Hartmann has been head coach of Elite League side Edinburgh Capitals since 2011.
The 39-year-old, from Slovakia, said: “This is a great opportunity to be part of the GB national team.
“I am so grateful to be given the chance to work with Great Britain and am excited about the future.”
Paul Thompson, who assisted IHUK in the recruitment process, said: “After months of interviewing coaches, players and current staff, a clear picture was indicated on what was required to go forward.
“Pete Russell has done a fantastic job as head coach with his under-20s, gaining promotion and gold.
“He has excellent planning, organisation and delegation skills. Pete has vast experience at tournament hockey and its styles and how to prepare.
“He has his finger on the pulse and is aware of every player that is available for the national team.
“Pete will bring the passion back to the programme and a recent IIHF stat proved that the head coaches from their own nation are the most successful.
“Richard will provide vast European style experience, which is absolutely required in IIHF tournament hockey.
“Tommy is showing his skill level currently with Telford and has a fantastic working relationship with Pete.
“It’s a new era and these talented young guys, headed by Pete, need to stamp their authority down on the programme and grow it for hopefully a positive future.”
IHUK chairman, Jim Anderson, said: “Ice Hockey UK are very excited about the future under our new coaching trio.
“Pete is one of the most passionate coaches I have ever met and his record at junior World Championship tournaments is exceptional.
“He is also very popular. All the players speak highly of him and it is clear he can get that extra mile out of players.
“It is fantastic that Great Britain are being led by one of the top British coaches in the game at the moment.
“We see these three as the future and hope they are with us for a long time to come.”
The appointments mean no return for Nottingham Panthers coach Corey Neilson, who was assistant to Christiansen last year.
Jim Anderson added: “On behalf of IHUK, I would like to thank Corey for his work with the GB programme.
“He made a great impact as a player and assistant coach for the national team and we wish him well for the future.”