FORMER Hull Stingrays coach Omar Pacha is the latest to join the team who replaced them in the Elite League after he was appointed player-coach of Manchester Storm,
Pacha enjoyed a stellar first season as player-coach in East Yorkshire, leading his team to the play-off semi-finals at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham where they were denied in the closing stages by regular season league champions Sheffield Steelers.
But any hopes of a repeat during the 2014-15 campaign were ended late last month when owner Bobby McEwan was forced to put the club into liquidation. Within hours, Manchester Storm - who themselves folded in 2002 - were announced as the team who would replace Hull in the UK’s top flight.
By the end of last week, GB internationals David Phillips and Matty Davies were unveiled as the club’s first signings, with Pacha the latest to jump on board as their boss.
Pacha’s arrival in Manchester coincides with reports in East Yorkshire that ice hockey may continue at Hull Ice Arena, with Shane Smith - owner of the EPL’s Sheffield Steeldogs - interested in launching a team.
Pacha will work closely with GB head coach Pete Russell, who is helping with the Storm’s launch through his role as director of hockey for Silverblades and Planet Ice brands, said he was saddened by the demise of Hull, but was looking forward to his new role in Manchester.
“The situation in Hull very was unfortunate, though I am extremely excited to be joining the new Manchester Storm franchise this upcoming year,” said Pacha.
“It’s a privilege to be named the first player-coach of the new club and although this is a completely new team, I am confident the club can make a very positive impact on and off the ice.
“Pete and I are working around the clock to look for the best players available to fit into the club philosophy. It’s been very positive working together and moving things forward.”
With Phillips and Davies already in place, it remains to be seen how many more of Hull’s players will make the trip across the M62 to join Manchester, or whether they opt to remain in Hull to play for any club that may be formed in the wake of the Stingrays’ demise.
Russell was full of praise for Pacha’s achievements in Hull on the usual miserly budget afforded coaches there and believes he is the ideal person for the new Storm.
“He is a good person, has a good work ethic and our organisation is excited about having him on-board,” said Russell.
“He did a really good job on a limited budget in Hull and don’t forget he was so close to taking them to the playoff final last season in Nottingham.
“Pacha and I are working hard researching and communicating with lots players, agents and coaches in Europe and North America to find the right players in.”