Ice Hockey UK CEO Henry Staelens has been in his new job just over four months, so we sat down with him to find out how everything is going and hear some of IHUK’s plans for the future.
How have your first few months been as Chief Executive Officer at Ice Hockey UK?
It’s been good. There are some really impressive people across the sport, giving their full commitment day-in and day-out. If we can combine that effort with a strategic focus to unlock the potential of ice hockey here in the UK, I see it the next few years being a really exciting period for players, fans and staff.
What areas have required the most immediate focus since stepping into the role?
I’d say there are three priorities that have needed a lot of time and attention, which will help us unlock the potential moving forward – governance, unity, professionalisation.
Our relationships with bodies such as UK Sport and UKAD are really important, so ensuring we are fully compliant across the board is crucial, and absolutely step one of any ambitions we look to achieve. We’re making great strides here, with the evolution and growth of our new board which will be announced in due course, tighter processes and controls, and overall general organisational-health improvements.
Regarding unity, this is a pretty vast area with lots of moving parts and historical factors encapsulating both organisations and individual people. But ultimately, it’s about relationships and engagement. We’re working hard on this and I believe these relationships will bring far greater value to everyone involved and ultimately the Great Britain teams.
And on professionalisation, this is what really struck me when I walked through the door. The sport is super popular across the world, and here in the UK it is one of, if not the best, supported indoor sports. We need to harness that appeal, join all of the dots and create the best set of environments possible for our players and staff to perform whilst feeling truly valued. The skill level of GB ice hockey, coupled with the risk and commitment, is phenomenally high and we need to make sure that this is recognised in the most appropriate ways.
To continue our on-ice performance and coach development, we’ll be bringing in a Head of Performance soon, as well as a couple of other key roles to refine our GB Programme Pathway from our junior squads through to senior men and senior women.
Off-ice, we’ll be implementing a number of initiatives to better engage with the phenomenal GB fanbase, online and offline. They are as much a part of this journey as the players and staff, and it’s important that we involve them in as many ways as possible.
What are you most looking forward to?
The obvious answers would be the Olympic Qualifiers and the all of the World Championships our squads are competing in over the next 12 months, seeing some great on-ice performances. But, honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing Ice Hockey UK make strides each week towards the ultimate aspirations of competing for medals in a few years time. We’ll be releasing a new strategic plan in the coming months, which will summarise our ambitions for IHUK and the GB teams, as well as the set of plans that will underpin these.