Back in December of 2013, I was fortunate to be reporting at the Men’s U20 World Championship Group that GB were hosting in Dumfries, Scotland. With the Stanley Cup in town I was lucky to be present for it’s arrival and the huge buzz of excitement around it.
Unfortunately I had some technical difficulties with the recordings made in December but with that resolved, here is the brief interview with General Secretary of Ice Hockey UK, Andy French, who I spoke with about the Stanley Cup and delved into the eligibility rules of players representing their country.
Getting the NHL’s Stanley Cup to the UK is obviously a huge achievement, how and when did you start that process?
It all started in May last year (2012).
I’m a good friend of Phil Pritchard (keeper of the cup) as I’ve known him many years, and after we won the bid to host here in Dumfries, I proposed the to ice hockey board that we have the 100 year dinner and one of other ideas to celebrate involved getting the cup here.
I have to thank the Hockey Hall Of Fame and Phil Pritchard especially, because he had to go through a lot of hoops to make it happen.
When it arrived yesterday it was great. Chris Ellis (GB media manager) gave me a pat on the back and said what a great job had been done. When you see it actually come off the plane and you’re there with it, it’s overwhelming and exciting because we’ve seen this process through to the end and then after tonight with the dinner that’ll be the icing on the cake. If GB can win a medal or stay in this championships divisional, it would have been a successful event from start to finish.
Image from http://www.icehockeyuk.com/ihukstore/ where this Anniversary Jersey is available to buy.
So would you say this was your proudest moment in hockey?
I’ve got a lot of proud moments really. I’ve been involved for 33 years, at various levels, club, league and general manager of the national teams. To be General Secretary of Ice Hockey UK and to have the people working around me, have the support that they give me and have faith in me with the things that I do , I’ve got to take my hat off to them.
The board of directors, vice president Jim Anderson, president Mohammed Ashraf, without a lot of people around me I wouldn’t be able to do the things I would like to in this job do without their support.
You’ve recently implemented a new coaching staff for Team GB, how do you feel that’s working out?
After the disappointments of some of the teams last year, we felt that a new coaching programme, infrastructure or whatever term you wish to use, was needed. We wanted to change the format of the way things were being done.
We went through a complete interview process, advertised heavily for the position, interviewed every single person, and we’ve implemented a new structure where the coaches overlap.
So for instance the head coach of the U20’s is now an assistant coach of the Men’s team and so we’ve got that knock on effect.
Hopefully they will learn and we’ll have that complete same programme from top to bottom and we’ve completed our aim in that regard.
Could you please explain how Josh Cook was ineligible to play in this tournament for GB while Liam Stewart does qualify and how those rules work?
I deal with international transfers and eligibility for national players. I was the person who submitted all the paperwork and appealed to the IIHF to enable Liam Stewart to become eligible to play for Great Britain. It was a long process which began two years go and the IIHF finally accepted his eligibility,
Liam Stewart for born in Great Britain and he has a green card to play in America so therefore he’s not a citizen of the U.S.
He is a citizen of New Zealand. Because he has two citizenships but was born in GB, he was given an exception case.
Josh Cook however was not born in the UK, he was born in Kelowna, Canada.
He moved to the UK when he was 3 or 4 years old and played hockey here until he was 12.
At that age he went back to Canada and has never played in the UK since.
IIHF regulations state that 737 days playing in that country from your 12th birthday, which sadly Josh has not attained. He and his father are most disappointed but we are doing everything we can.
There are ongoing requests from national bodies across the world which come up at congress every two years and this year in Minsk, Belarus, we will be attending and we’ve already submitted proposals
to change that rule. If that rule changes we feel that if a player has a passport for this country, bearing in mind a child cannot dictate where he or she plays if the parents decide to move, then we’d like to have them considered to play.
I even tried appealing the Josh Cook ruling, but the IIHF stand by their rules steadfastly.