Great Britain head coach Pete Russell not joining players at IIHF World Championships in Latvia

GREAT BRITAIN head coach Pete Russell will not be joining up with his players for the World Championships in Latvia for family reasons.

IN GOOD HANDS: Pete Russell, centre, will offer support and guidance to assistants Adam Keefe, far left, and Corey Neilson far right, who will be with the GB players in Latvia. Picture: Dean Woolley

Assistant coaches Adam Keefe and Corey Neilson, who have been working with the players since their training camp started almost two weeks ago in Coventry, will instead preside over the GB campaign which gets underway against Russia this Saturday.

Having spent the past nine months away in Germany where his DEL2 side Freiburg reached the playoff semi-finals before losing in five games to Bietigheim-Bissingen, Russell has only just recently returned home.

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And, after a copuple of days back in familiar surroundings, Russell decided it would be too soon to leave his family behind once again.

STAYING PUT: GB head coach Pete Russell will not be joining his players at this year's World Championships, instead helping back home from the UK. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“My family have been so supportive throughout my career, but nine months is a long time away from your wife and daughter,” said Russell. “I came home and just spending time with my daughter, it become apparent it would be tough for me to go away again. To come back after nine months and leave two days later would be pretty heartless.

“I have missed a lot of things. I missed my daughter’s cleft palate operation when I was GB Under-20s coach.

“My wife had breast cancer at the last tournament in Slovakia and I was only able to get back for two days when she had her operation.

“My family have backed me all the way and I just felt this time the right thing was to do was to make myself unavailable.”

THE BEST OF TIMES: Pete Russell celebrates with his players after sealing promotion to the top tier back in 2018. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Russell will remain in regular contact with his two assistants throughout the tournament in Riga, his decision having received the full support of the GB hierachy.

Ice Hockey UK Chair, Clifton Wrottesley, said: “As a board, we fully support Pete’s decision concerning this year’s World Championship. I am sure it was a very difficult decision for him to make, but we 100 per cent stand by him with his decision.

“I know Pete will be active in being part of the coaching team back home and we look forward to Adam, Corey and Goaltending Coach Euan King leading the team in Latvia.”

Having guided GB to the top tier for the first time in 25 years in 2019 – and then overseeing a final day escape act to avoid relegation when beating France in Slovakia - Russell admitted his decision was not an easy one.

“I spoke with Andy Buxton, Andy French and Clifton Wrottesley and they were very supportive - they understood the situation,” added Russell.

“GB has meant a lot to me for the past 18 years of my life, so this was not an easy decision to make. The journey we have made to get where we are, you never want to miss out on that.

“Adam and Corey are top coaches and I don’t think it is a big issue for them, but anything they need I will be there for them.”

GB, who will at based at the Olympic Sports Centre, also face tough Group A matches against Slovakia, Denmark, Belarus, Sweden, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

Hosts Latvia, as well as Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Norway and the US, make up Group B.

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