"The Great One" skates on

Friday, 15th June 2007

Manchester Phoenix Director of Hockey Tony Hand MBE has confirmed his intention to continue playing for at least one more season.

Universally accepted as the greatest ever ice hockey player born and trained in the UK, the 39-year old Scot has taken his time making the decision that many in the game hoped he would.

"After a hard season in Manchester and then the world championships in Slovenia, I was tired, both physically and mentally, so I decided to wait a few weeks and see how I felt," he commented. "I'd thought all along that I would only continue to play if I felt I could contribute. I know my future lies in coaching and that is the path I want to follow. But, I still love playing and after a good rest, I'm back in the gym and feeling pretty good already."

In 57 appearances for the Phoenix last season, Tony Hand tallied 18 goals and 58 assists for 76 points and 80 minutes in penalties, making him the leading British points scorer for the sixth time in the last nine years.

Expanding further on his decision to lace up his skates for an astonishing 25th season Hand added, "the club put me under no pressure to continue playing. Both Neil and Andy said it was my call at the end of the season and they have not pushed me for a decision either way. Last season was a tough one because of the disrupted training and playing schedules, and so after a great deal of thinking, I'm ready to play on. Now settled in our own building, things will be a lot more controlled and that will help me as well as the rest of the squad, and hopefully, we'll be that much better prepared each night."

Phoenix GM Andy Costigan remarked, "We were prepared to accept Tony's decision whichever way it went. Personally, I felt he deserved the chance to enjoy a more settled situation than last year before making the decision to retire. Having said that, it's not me putting my body on the line each night and I have the utmost respect for him for being prepared to do it again. It's not for fun that many nickname him "The Great One" and I can't think of too many other players who would even consider a 25th year. Tony's experience and playmaking abilities are invaluable to our club as is the example he sets for others to follow in terms of fitness and conditioning. He still has so much to give to the game as a player, everyone looks up to him, and rightly so."

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