French weighs up big questions ahead of Riga 

Ice Hockey UK General Secretary Andy French has highlighted the difficulties ahead for the GB Men's team

Ice Hockey UK General Secretary Andy French says there are many considerations to take before Pete Russell can name his World Championship squad for Riga in May.

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been largely felt in the UK with no Elite League taking place, players either going abroad to play, taking spots in the NIHL competitions or not playing at all.

And French, speaking on Clan Chat, the weekly show from Glasgow Clan, revealed there are many issues to consider before they even get to deciding who will be on the plane for Latvia later in the year.

“There’s a lot of things to organise from our point of view,” he said. “We need to know how many players have been on the ice for GB since last March then we need to find out how many of them can play, want to play, want to travel, risk to families etc.

“There’s lots of questions to be answered and lots of work for Pete and the coaching staff, as well as myself and Andy Buxton to consider, plus there’s the board and Ice Hockey UK.  The bottom line is safety must come first.

“We also have to consider the logistical side of it, such as when we arrive and whether we need to enter a bubble.

Olympic Sports Centre in Riga is where GB will play in the World Championships later this year

“I think because the IIHF got the Men’s Under 20 tournament going in Edmonton back in January and it was a success, they’ve got no option than to make the top division happen.

“They also need to make the Under 18s happen plus the senior women’s tournament and then you have the IOC insisting the qualification rounds of the Olympics has to happen.  

“From that standpoint, we still have the women’s to play, the men are out of course so with only a year to go, they need to get those played.”

As for the squad itself, coach Pete Russell faces something of a headache with players in different countries and different levels of fitness, depending on their activities in the last 11 months.

There’s also the consideration of possible squad members being involved in play-offs come the time when the GB team is meant to be assembling, not to mention other issues.

Pete Russell will have a busy few months as he looks to prepare for the World Championships (PHOTO: Ice Hockey UK)

“Only last week, the IIHF had a meeting with all 16 nations, including ourselves and it looks like we’re on for this year,” French added.

“There definitely isn’t any relegation this year and we’re playing for medals, positioning and pride basically.

“Looking ahead, Pete was originally going to go with 38 for a camp, but I think there’s going to be 33, which he then has to bring down to 25, of which three are goalies.

“He’s got a tough job and the problem we have is someone like Robert Dowd for example, if his team reach the play-offs, when does he come back?  Does he need to quarantine as I understand you have to isolate for 10 days when you come into the UK and such like?

“There’s other players involved with play-offs, including some guys in North America as well.  Will they be back in time or can they join us afterwards, which I don’t think they can as we have to travel as one?  What about staff and media and getting time off work as well?

“It could be they need three weeks off work before for camp to get in early and the championships could be a six/seven week trip.  There are plenty of considerations as we look ahead so it will be a very busy time.”

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