Elite League: MK Lightning boss Pete Russell undaunted by ice hockey's top flight

Pete Russell
Pete Russell guided Great Britain to promotion to World Championship Division One in April.

GB coach Pete Russell is relishing the prospect of leading MK Lightning into their first Elite League campaign.

They make the step up to the top flight after winning two trophies last season.

Lightning start the new season away to Cardiff Devils on 9 September, with their first home game against Belfast Giants the following evening.

"They're like the Man Uniteds, the Chelseas and Man Citys, the biggest teams in the country with big budgets," 43-year-old Russell told BBC 3CR.

"That's part of the challenge, and for the fans it's great to get to see those teams as well. They want to see good hockey and they're going to see the best hockey you can get in the whole country."

This season sees a change of structure in the Elite League with three Conferences of four teams replacing the previous two divisions of five.

Coventry Blaze, Guildford Flames and Manchester Storm are the other three sides in MK's Patton Conference, and they meet Coventry in their first pre-season friendly on Saturday.

"I think we are in a really good conference. It's going to be really competitive, and you play all the other teams as well four times," said Russell.

"It's like the jump from the Championship to the Premiership which is a crazy jump, a really hard jump. We know it's going to be tough, but we've got a really good group (of players)."

The Lightning squad began full-time training on the ice on Monday and it contains several new faces, like Guillaume Doucet from reigning champions Cardiff, and players from France and the US collegiate system.

"There's a real buzz and a lot of change, but you have to embrace change sometimes. We have great fans and we want to keep them busy and even more excited," he added.

"We've got to make sure that we make it a team that people want to come and watch. We're going to do that, we're going to be a hardworking team and give everything every night."

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