The high that the Team GB Ice Hockey team achieved when making it to the last round of qualification for the next Winter Olympics, was quickly followed by a huge low in April.
Losing all five games and therefore relegated to Division 1B of the World Championship, meant that Tony Hand would step aside from the head coaching role. Probably walking before being sent on his way, at least it meant Team GB could get on with the job in hand of looking for a new direction.
The man to replace him is Doug Christiansen, who was Hand’s assistant.
The Milwaukee native had a playing hockey career in North America, encompassing NCAA and mostly ECHL with a smattering of games in the AHL.
He came to the UK in 2007 to be the player/head coach of the Edinburgh Capitals.
After playing two full seasons, Christiansen would shatter his knee cap in the first game of the following season the playing side of his career. In that third season he would be awarded the Elite league coach of the year .
In 2010 Christiansen became head coach of Belfast Giants and during his time the team would be EIHL Play Off Champions and Elite League Champions.
The Sheffield Steelers appointed him as their head coach for coming season and Team GB’s impressive forward Robert Dowd will also be joining Sheffield after a stint in Sweden.
At 35 years old Christiansen is the youngest of the new coaching team, with both his new assistants slightly older but neither the ripe old age of 40.
Corey Neilson is the first of those assistants. Born in New Brunswick, Canada his hockey career could have been a whole deal different after being drafted in 1994 (round 3 53rd overall) by Edmonton Oilers.
The defenseman would be advised by his agent not to sign the deal offered by the Oilers and would never get to see a game in the NHL. He would have over 400 games in the ECHL and one very successful season in the lower reaches of German hockey before making his way to the UK in 2006.
Has been an ever present since then for the Nottingham Panthers and held the role of player/coach for the past 5 seasons. For 2013/2014 Neilson will hang up the skates to become head coach for the Panthers.
Unlike the two aforementioned coaches, Peter Russell’s playing career was a short one with just 119 games between the pipes, but his coaching profile is impressive.
Coaching since 1999, Russell has held junior coaching positions with Ayr, Paisley and Cardiff and head coaching positions with Swindon, Bracknell and Slough.
In 2009/10 season he guided Slough to EPL Playoff success as well as being named Coach of the Season. The following year Slough would lift the EPL Cup
As Head Coach of Team GB Under 20’s from 2003-2011, he had plenty of success and Russell will know plenty of the current Team GB squad, having mentored them during that period. He currently coaches at The Okanagan Hockey School and Academy UK which were founded in 2012 as a subsidiary of Okanagan Hockey School in Penticton, BC, Canada.
The only step back IHUK have taken is to re-appoint Andy Buxton as general manager of the Team GB’s senior men’s team.
It may seem a backwards step but the team enjoyed success during his last tenure.
From 2007-2011 Buxton transformed the off-ice organisation of the national team programme which contributed to GB winning both silver and bronze medals in the Division One of the World Championships and coming very close to promotion to the top flight in 2011.
The Coventry Blaze Chairman is well respected and will hopefully provide the perfect platform for the coaches and the players to do their job as well as possible.
The first talk that awaits all four gentlemen is to prepare for a trip to Vilnius, Lithuania, 20-26 April 2014 for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B, where Team GB will face
Poland, Netherlands, Romania, Lithuania and Croatia.