Manchester Phoenix player-coach Tony Hand has agreed a contract extension that will keep him at the helm of the English Premier League club for at least the next three seasons.
Hand, who became the first Britain-raised player to be drafted to the NHL when the Edmonton Oilers picked him 252nd overall in the 1986, has been in charge of the Phoenix since 2006 and led the team to the EPL title in 2010-11.
He also became Great Britain coach in 2011 and earlier this year guided the national team to the final qualifying stage for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The Edinburgh-born forward, who has racked up ten goals and 63 assists for 73 points in 44 games this season, revealed that he had received other offers but is happy to commit his future to Phoenix.
“I enjoy working in Manchester. Phoenix are an excellent club and Neil [Morris] and I have a very good working relationship. He deals with the business side and I deal with the team. It’s a good job and the organisation is very professional. The fans are fantastic and turn up in numbers every week home and away,” Hand said.
“I did have offers elsewhere but am committed to Manchester Phoenix for the next three years. The team is going from strength to strength and, but for the injury situation, I am positive we would have had a better shot at the title.”
Phoenix managing director Neil Morris said he “over the moon” to see ink dry on Hand’s contract extension.
“The commitment Tony has shown to the club is second to none,” he added.
“We have a special relationship and have come through all sorts of trials and tribulations to get to where we are today. Who can forget the logistical nightmare of playing ‘home away from home’ at Deeside and Ice Sheffield while waiting for the Dome to be finished and the injury situation for the last two years that would try the patience of a saint? We have come through it all and put a competitive team out every game and, with Tony at the helm, will continue to do so.”
Phoenix still have a chance of claiming some silverware with the postseason playoffs just around the corner but Hand revealed that planning is already underway for next season.
He said: “Recruitment is coming along nicely; we are just finalising some details at the moment for next season and we will have a strong, competitive and entertaining squad again next year.”
By Andy Jowett