Coventry Blaze head coach Paul Thompson will be step down from his position at the end of the current season.
Thompson, who is the longest-serving head coach in Europe, has been at the helm of the Blaze for the last 18 years, guiding the organisation to 15 major trophies at all levels of the British game. He has helped the club win four Elite League titles including his finest season in 2004/05 where he led the Blaze to the Elite League Grand Slam.
Thompson, who will remain a part owner of the Blaze, will be taking up a coaching position at Troja-Ljungby in the Swedish second division at the start of the 2013/14 season.
Thompson said: “This isn’t a decision that’s been made at the drop of a hat. It’s something I’ve been discussing with my family and fellow directors for a while now. It was just a question of when we all felt the time was right. I’ve coached in the UK all of my life and I feel I now need to test myself and continue to develop as a coach by learning new things in a new country and hockey environment.
“Sweden is a hockey nation and I’m excited about being able to work in a country where they live and breathe hockey. I also feel my experience will benefit Troja – my experience of over 1200 professional games and international hockey is a big reason I’ve been given this opportunity. Troja is a well-run, established club and is a perfect fit for me right now.
“The Blaze are my club. I’ve put my heart and soul into this team and club my whole career and at some point maybe I will be able to bring the things I learn in Sweden back to the club.”
After stepping down as head coach, Thompson will spend the summer continuing in his role as Director of Hockey Operations for the club – a role which will see him take on the majority of the recruitment of the Blaze team for next season along with the appointment of a new coach for the club.
“I’m going to make sure the club continues to head in the right direction next season,” continued Thompson. “I want us to be the best we can be and I want to make sure we have the right off-ice structure in place to continue the progress we’ve made this last season.
“The fans have loved watching this year’s team and although there will inevitably be changes for next season, I want them to enjoy watching next year’s team just as much. I want hockey to continue to be fun and entertaining in Coventry. I am and will continue to be passionate about this club.”
Blaze chairman Andy Buxton said: “There are no words left that haven’t been used already to describe the impact Paul has had on this club and the British game. This is the right thing at the right time for Paul and we are confident this experience will benefit the Blaze significantly too.
“He’s not disappearing and will continue to play a big part in the running and direction of this club going forward – and well into the future. It’s his club and that won’t change.
“As a club we have a great relationship with Troja and we are sure it will be a wonderful experience for Paul and for the Troja-Ljungby hockey club.
“Obviously everyone in Coventry thanks Paul for everything he has done and for giving us all some amazing memories. We look forward to him being part of many more great memories here in the future.”
Thompson concluded: “My focus right now is to finish this season strongly. I’ve enjoyed working with this team as much as any other and I’ve really enjoyed the feel-good factor that has been around the club this season.
“We want to finish well for the fans who have really got behind us this season. The play-offs are just around the corner and, who knows, it would be great to finish this chapter of my Blaze career with some more silverware.”