Tom Watkins steps aside as GB assistant coach
Adam Keefe has replaced Telford Tigers head coach Tom Watkins in the Great Britain coaching set-up.
Belfast Giants coach Keefe has been named the new assistant coach to work alongside head coach Pete Russell.
Watkins, a former GB player and under-20s head coach, had been part of the coaching team since 2015 and helped oversee promotion to ice hockey’s second tier with five wins from five matches at the World Championship Division 1 Group B in Belfast last April.
“It has been great fun to involved with the GB teams and being part of the men’s programme was something I never expected, but this is a decision that I made for my family,” Watkins said.
“It has been a pleasure to work alongside Peter in that time and I take some fantastic memories away from our time working together.
"We have a good relationship behind the bench and complement one another’s styles.
"I’m extremely grateful to all the staff I have worked with and it is an honour to work with so many highly motivated individuals who have helped and supported in my role.
"It’s important to remember that these guys give up so much of their free time for the national teams.”
Brampton-born Keefe has led the Giants into the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup this season and his Belfast side are currently second in the Elite League table.
The 33-year-old first arrived in Northern Ireland in the 2011-12 season and twice won the league title as player. He was both alternate captain and captain with the Giants before taking over as coach in the summer.
“I am honoured to join to the coaching staff of the Great Britain national team,” said Keefe.
“Pete Russell is an experienced coach who has done a fantastic job with GB and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the team win gold in Belfast last year.
“This year’s World Championship in Hungary is an exciting challenge and I will do my absolute best to help support the coaching staff.”
Russell, said: “Adam was a fantastic player on the ice and he has proved himself to be a great coach this season. He is full of passion and is committed to hockey in the UK. We have found a good connection with each other and that’s vital.
“We are sad to be losing Tommy but I understood his reasons for stepping down. He has been a big part of the coaching staff in the last few years and had a major input into our promotion last season.
"Tommy has been my right arm for years – we have been through so much together. We became coaches together and from this we are friends. I will miss him hugely.”