Russell worries for players

Pete Russell Team GB Head Coach (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

GB Men’s national coach Pete Russell says he’s more worried about his players finding work this season than the World Championships next year.

With the Elite League suspended for 2020/21, British players have been forced to look either abroad or in the NIHL for opportunities to play, but there are some still without spots.

And the ones who do remain without any opportunities at this moment in time are the ones at the forefront of Russell’s thoughts right now.

“I’m worried for the guys who haven’t been able to get jobs,” he told Ice Hockey UK TV. “There’s a lot of great guys come through the system in the last five years and I hope they can all find somewhere to play.

“That’s a tough thing and these guys aren’t getting paid.  They have families and because of the pandemic and lockdowns, they’re not even allowed sport.  There’s no support and that’s the worst part.

“The World Championships are a by-product of all of that and my thinking is if the guys can get playing somewhere, then that’s great.  We’ll worry about the tournament when it comes, but my thoughts are with all the guys right now.

“I know all those guys will keep going.  Even if they’re offered something with less money, they’ll take it.  As long as they get to play somewhere.

“I just hope it balances itself out soon, or there’s a vaccine.  We need to get some normality back after the months we’ve had.”

Russell is in Germany with his club side, Freiburg in DEL2 and they began their season at the weekend with a 5-2 win over Heilbronner Falken followed by a narrow 1-0 loss to Kassel Huskies on Sunday.

He says he feels privileged to be working in these difficult times and gave some insight into the safety measures that have been implemented to ensure safety for everyone involved.

“There are a lot of rules over here,” he added. “Things people wouldn’t thinking about such as temperature testing, COVID testing plus we change in three different locker rooms and he have to wear masks on the bus the whole time when we’re travelling.

“There are no towels on the benches and hand sanitiser everywhere and it’s all those things, even little things you wouldn’t think of.

“There’s a pile of work and a lot of money has been sent to keep everyone safe.  In Germany, the big thing is the funding that’s been put in to keep sport going.  We play with no fans and that will be the way for at least a month.

“There are ghost games everywhere and it’s strange.  One of the things that got me was the atmosphere in the arenas.  It’s crazy.  Now you hear a bit of chirping, but it’s nice to be back together as a team.

“I feel privileged and it’s something I tell the players all the time.  There’s so much going on in the world right now where some countries aren’t playing.  We’ve managed to keep a lot of players and there’s plenty of travel to come for us.”

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