Bees start 25th Anniversary season recruitment
The Bracknell Bees are pleased to announce that recruitment for the club's 25th Anniversary Season is already at an advanced stage.Date added: 30/04/2012
Head Coach Gareth Cox will return for his third season in charge of the club and has immediately been joined again by player-assistant coach Lukas Smital and last year's Supporters Club Player of the Year, Shaun Thompson.
The club are also delighted to announce the signing of former-Bee, Sam Oakford, who makes a welcome return to the Hive after three years in Basingstoke.
General Manager Stuart Robinson said that he and Managing Director Katie Eleftheriou had no hesitation in re-appointing Gareth as Head Coach; "Both of us were extremely frustrated to see the team miss out on play off qualification by such a tiny margin, but it was nothing compared to the disappointment felt by Gareth, Lukas and the players. On the ice, they delivered a competitive and entertaining team. We saw the points total double on that achieved in 2010/11, with only Sheffield enjoying more markedly improved productivity. Crowds were up, corporate sponsorship was up and the spirit within the changing room was fantastic."
"46 points would have seen us comfortably in seventh or eighth place in previous years and Gareth delivered the impressive turnaround in results with one of the lower but more realistic salary budgets in the league. This is all about building and improving year on year, whilst maintaining a sustainable business and future. Gareth shares our aspirations, understands the business, is Bracknell through and through and with Lukas, is committed to developing those in the junior programme at the Hive."
"There appears to be quite a merry-go-round of change taking place among our competitors in the league this summer, but we want to ensure that we are still in an excellent position to build rather than re-build, to enhance rather than start from scratch again and we're looking forward to celebrating the Bees Silver Anniversary Season with another squad that the supporters will enjoy getting behind again."
37-year old Czech forward Lukas Smital led the Bees' scoring last season with 77 points in 52 matches (29 goals and 48 assists) and will embark on his fifth campaign in a Bracknell jersey. He has amassed an impressive 572 points in 348 English Premier League (EPIHL) matches with the Bees and Guildford Flames. A huge fan favourite, Lukas virtually lives at the Hive, combining his player-assistant coach role with that as Head Coach of the successful Bracknell Ice Hockey Club junior programme and the English National League Bracknell Hornets.
British forward Shaun Thompson is also returning for what will be his fifth campaign with the Bees. Although still only 24 years old, Shaun's senior career started in 2003/04 and he has enjoyed successful spells in the EPIHL, the Elite League with Slough, Basingstoke and Hull. Last season he scored 18 goals and had 27 assists for the Bees, but his never-say-die spirited performances saw supporters vote him as both Player of the Year and British Player of the Year in March.
Head Coach Gareth Cox said; "I'm so pleased to have "Smits" back with me again this season. He is a fantastic guy to work with and his experience and professional outlook are outstanding. He is one of the most dangerous players in the league and highly respected. He is as determined as me to make sure that we build upon last season and enjoy more success and consistency."
"Thommo had a great year and was one of the key players we needed back. He never stops working, never takes a shift off. He leads from the front and has a habit of scoring goals at the perfect moment."
"But I'm also excited to sign Sam Oakford. He is without doubt one of the best young British defenceman in the league. Although he is only 21, he plays with the maturity and assuredness of a veteran. Over the last few years he has built on his early senior career education when he played at the Bees alongside guys like Dwight Parrish and Jan Melichar. I know our supporters will be delighted to see him back home."
Ascot-born Sam broke into the Bees team from the Hornets in the 2006/07 season and became a blue line fixture for the next three years. A product of Bracknell's junior programme, he represented Great Britain in both the Under 18 and Under 20 World Championships, picking up a gold medal and two silver medals in the process. Sam left the Bees to join the Basingstoke Bison at the start of the 2009/10 season, to be closer to his new university home in Southampton. But as his degree programme finishes this summer, he was keen to return to the Hive. In 42 matches for Basingstoke last season, Sam scored 4 goals and had 16 assists.
Sam said; "I've got a lot of good memories of Bracknell and I'm glad to be back. Personally I thought there was a very good core of players here last year so if we keep hold of them and add to the areas we need to improve on, then we can really start to move forward as a club and look to compete higher up the table."
"We're a team in transition and I know that Gareth is working hard to secure some key guys from last year already, then bring in extra quality to show the club is moving in the right direction and I'm excited to be a part of what's going on here next season."