News

The “Great One” plays on

Friday, 1st August 2008

Tony Hand MBE, Britain’s greatest ever ice hockey player, has reached the decision many in the game hoped he would – he’ll don the Phoenix number 9 shirt again and play on for season 2008-09.

The evergreen 40-year old Scot smiled as he admitted, “The club have been terrific with me, they’ve left me alone to make my decision and the bottom line is I still love playing the game, and I do believe I can still contribute.”

“At the end of last season, I sat down with Neil (Morris) and exactly the same as the previous year, he told me it was entirely my call,” he added. “I did take a good rest before going back to the gym, and to be honest I’ve felt really good all summer. I got back on the ice a couple of weeks ago and the old legs feel fine, but I wanted to give it a little more time to be sure of what I was committing my body to.”

The Phoenix player-coach confirmed that the rule change that have seen him able to recruit a squad with an extra import player was influential in his decision making. “I’m very happy with the way the new squad looks, we’ve got contract offers out to two more players and the extra body in the roster will see us ice three full lines this season. I’ve always said that depth in the roster is key and with the extra player, it will mean a more even spread of ice time and that will actually help me personally. The other big factor I had to consider is can I still contribute, and I think I can. And the quality of the players we’re bringing in has reinforced that opinion in my mind.”

Approaching his 41st birthday on August 15th and heading into his 29th career season, Tony Hand is well aware that even he cannot deny the passage of time and that his long-term future lies purely in coaching. “Absolutely, coaching full time is my goal and my long-term future, and if I didn’t think I can still help the team on the ice, there’s no way I’d play on. I still enjoy playing, and I still get a buzz out of training – even if sometimes the legs feel like a bit of a lie-in. Again, Neil and I have talked at length about the way forward for the club, and that has to mean full-time coaching. The time for me to concentrate solely on the coaching role is drawing ever closer, but I do feel in good nick and if I can help the team challenge for silverware this season, that might be the best way to make the move to step behind the bench.”

In two previous seasons with the Phoenix, Tony Hand MBE has played in 116 games scoring 41 goals with 119 assists for a total of 160 points and needs just 33 more to reach a staggering domestic career total of 4000. Modestly he remarked, “I knew I was getting up there, I didn’t realise how close it was though. Naturally, I’ll be delighted and honoured if I reach that magical figure, but if the choice was finishing a point shy and the team winning a trophy, I’d take the trophy for the team ahead of personal concerns everyday of the week and twice on a Sunday.”

Tony Hand Action Shot

In two previous seasons with the Phoenix, Tony Hand MBE has played in 116 games scoring 41 goals with 119 assists for a total of 160 points and needs just 33 more to reach a staggering domestic career total of 4000.


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