SLOUGH Jets head coach Lukas Smital announced his retirement as an active player after more than 25 years on the ice this week, writes Rob Stevens.


, 44, spent most of his career in North America before being brought to the UK by Bracknell Bees. He also featured for Guildford Flames in the English National Ice Hockey League before returning to the Bees and later becoming their head coach.

The Czech then joined


as player-head coach and led them to the National Ice Hockey League Division Two title and National Champions winners last season, before hanging up his skates.

In a statement on the official Jets website, Smital said: "I would like to let everyone know that my time as an active player has come to an end. It was a long and touch decision to make but I've decided to retire from the game I love.

"It's time for me to give 100 per-cent of my attention to coaching and the development of young British talent, which I strongly believe there is plenty of. These kids have the chance to make it further than some might think, but only if people are willing to work together and support it.

"I've been able to see the world thanks to hockey and meet some amazing people along the way. People that have been influential throughout my career and life - sometimes even without knowing it.

"I thank those that I crossed paths with as teammates, that coached me to become a more complete player, or made sure my equipment was ready for the next game or training session.

"I also thank Slough Jets for giving me the opportunity and freedom to help players achieve their potential. Such a great bunch of people make my job much easier.

"My biggest thanks goes to my wife, Veronika. She has been through it all with me from the very beginning. The lows, highs, ugly and nice.

"You've played a major role in my hockey career whilst bringing up two great boys. I appreciate all the sacrifices and never-ending support."

Smital added: "With me out of the line-up we will not be seeking replacement import players. We will be focussing on British youth and giving them as many opportunities as we can."

Slough will compete in National Ice Hockey League South Division One this season and have moved to re-sign a number of the title-winning squad from last term including Ryan Handisides, Luke Dreelan, Tom Fisher, Robert Horsfall, Timo Lindgren and Liam Underdown.

The Jets get the new season under way with a visit to The Hangar from rivals Bracknell Hornets on Saturday 14th September (5.45pm).