Watkins speaks highly of "lifelong friend" Cowley

In our interview with Russell Cowley ahead of his #17 jersey retirement on Sunday at the Skydome Arena (HERE), he selects current Head Coach of the Telford Tigers Tommy Watkins as part of his all-star team.

Hardly surprising considering the pair achieved an Elite League Grand Slam on a line together in 2004/05. Before that, the two played a crucial role in Coventry winning a British National League Double, and after added two more Elite League Championships and a Knock-out Cup.

Watkins, who joined Coventry in 2000, like Cowley was capable of switching between forward and defence, playing almost every position during his time with Blaze. His final season came in 2009/10 when he then moved to his current side the Telford Tigers.

Since, in addition to taking on the coaching of the EPL and now NIHL side, the former Blaze #20 has taken upon an assistant coaching role with the GB senior men’s national team, winning a World Championships Gold medal last April in Belfast.

That game was to be Cowley’s final appearance as a professional, and indeed Watkins’ last game on the bench, stepping down recently to spend more time with his family.

Watkins, said of his long-time teammate:

“I was very pleased to hear that the Blaze would be recognising Russ’s dedication, commitment and loyalty to the organisation by retiring his number.

“I remember when Russ joined the Blaze as a young kid, it took me a few months to realise he was actually British, as he had this North American accent that he had developed and I was surprised to learn he was actually a farmer from Worcestershire!!

“Looking back, the line of myself, Graham Schlender and Russ was probably the favourite of my career. I think we all complemented each other well and added depth to the team that went onto to win a Grand Slam. We chipped in with some huge goals and were capable of shutting the top-end down.

“Russ developed into a very smart hockey player and excellent professional. He was my roommate on a number of trips with GB and we had some good laughs. He is not just a teammate but will be a lifelong friend.

“After playing alongside Russ I had the pleasure of working with him as coach with GB and couldn’t ask for a better person to work with. He understood the game and was capable of playing in any situation and in any position. I sincerely wish Russ and his family all the best for the future.”

The Blaze would encourage fans to purchase tickets for this special game as soon as possible as we are expecting a big crowd.

Please also arrive and find your seats as early as you can on the night. Doors open at 4.30pm.

The ceremony will take place before the puck-drop around 5.15pm. We recommend that everyone is seated by 5pm.

Tickets

Call 02476 630693 or visit the Skydome Box Office.