NICK Poole has decided to hang up his skates with immediate effect in order to concentrate on coaching at MK Lightning.
The Canadian has decided to retire from playing after a career spanning almost 23 years – 13 of which have seen him involved in the sport in Milton Keynes.
Poole, who turns 40 in June, says the decision comes after a disappointing season so far for the city team, culminating in their shock home defeat to Swindon Wildcats last Saturday.
Under Poole’s leadership, Lightning have become one of the English Premier League’s most successful teams, with seven trophies amassed during their decade in the competition, while his involvement with junior development in the city has seen several players earn international selections.
Poole began playing hockey when studying at the University of New Hampshire in 1991 where he played for four seasons before signing for Dayton Bombers of the East Coast Hockey League in the US.
A season each at Manchester Storm, Pelicans in Finland, and the London Knights followed, before he signed for MK Kings in 1999. And apart from the 2001 season, Poole has played in Milton Keynes ever since, increasing his involvement to become player-coach and director of junior development when Lightning were formed in 2002.
Poole said that whilst he had mixed feelings about the decision, he was excited for the future in his new role, and hoped the move would lead to better fortunes for Lightning.
“Whilst it’s with a tinge of sadness I will not be icing for Lightning again, I also feel a renewed sense of excitement that I will begin a new chapter in my own hockey career,” he said.
“Last week’s 5-4 loss highlighted our inconsistency that has been present since the start of the season.
“At times we’ve played some great hockey but we’ve also struggled to find the required levels to win on the road and thus have not had any winning runs.
“As coach it is ultimately my responsibility to make sure there is accountability for our performances both as individuals and collectively.
“I believe that by stepping behind the bench I can raise our team’s accountability and add value. I also have not been 100 per cent happy with my own performances and feel that by bringing in a younger and fresher face to our line up we can add talent and scoring punch.
“I have been struggling with a back/neck injury for some time and feel this is both in the best interests of the team and my own health.
“I’m incredibly proud of all the successes of MK Lightning and of being a part of it from the start. I’m looking forward to focusing full time on coaching this team and helping it reach its potential. We have a fantastic group of players that I still believe can achieve something special this year.”
Lightning’s chairman Vito Rausa added: “We’re obviously sad to see Nick hang up his skates, but we absolutely respect his decision, which we are in complete support of. I know we’ll miss him on the ice, but I have no doubt he will make us a better team from the bench.
“Nick has been a fantastic player for us and it may be that we’ll see him ice again if he steps in as injury cover, but I know he wants to concentrate on coaching and is passionate about improving our overall performance on the ice.”