“THE MEMORIES I gathered at Bracknell over the years will never go away.”
That was the message from Lukas Smital as he bids farewell to the club where he spent nine years both as a player and head-coach.
Smital was deemed surplus to requirements by Bracknell Bees after they dropped down to the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) with current player Scott Spearing announced as the new man to lead the side.
And the 42-year-old admits he is disappointed the opportunity to have one last year on the ice has been snatched from him.
“This year would’ve been my 10th and testimonial year in the 30th year of Bees existence,” he told The Wokingham Paper.
“My personal plans were that I wanted to give one more year, especially when we dropped leagues.
“I was more than confident I could do an outstanding job in that league and then maybe call it a day and say goodbye to all the fans who supported me over the years and finish it this way.
“But unfortunately this option was taken away from me.”
He added: “It is disappointing, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
“I’m not going to cry about it or anything. I always believed there is a lot of potential in me when I was young as a player and now as a coach.
“I’m going to find a way to keep plugging away somewhere else and continue my legacy.
“My focus always lied on young talent. I extremely enjoyed working with these guys and seeing them progress and develop and that’s what I’m going to do.
“Nothing will stop me from doing that.”
Smital first moved to the UK in 2004, joining the Bees having previously spent his career mostly playing in the USA.
He played for Bracknell for three seasons before a spell away at Guildford Flames, only to return to the Bees in 2011.
And after replacing Gareth Cox as head coach in December 2013, Smital led the side until his departure was confirmed last week.
His efforts last summer to ensure the Bees did not go out of business will never be forgotten by the fans, as well as his presence both on and off the ice. And Smital himself says his time in Bracknell will always stay with him.
“There was no fall out (between myself and the owners), just no communication at all,” he said.
“People sense things like that and I knew what was about to happen.
“Maybe they were anticipating my plans, but what they were anticipating was wrong at that time.
“I wanted to finish it off by saying goodbye to my fans, who meant a great deal for myself and my family.
“These memories I gathered over the years will never go away.”
The man replacing Smital is his now former team-mate Spearing.
The 31-year-old also joined Bracknell in 2004 and after various spells around the country, has been a regular fixture with the club again since 2011.
“He’s a guy I’ve known probably longest out of everybody,” said Smital of Spearing.
“He called me about it and he told me that the option is there and I said he needs to take it.
“It’s an opportunity for him.
“How he’s going to do or not, it’s hard to say at the moment because no-one knows who he is going to sign.
“There needs to obviously be results because everybody is going to be looking at dropping down from EPL to NIHL and Bees are going to have to play among the top part of the table.
“But I’m sure he’s going to find a way.”
As for Smital, he insists he still has a hunger to continue within the game and says his next move may arrive sooner rather than later.
“I’m finalising a deal at the moment,” he said.
“I’m going to go somewhere and that’s going to be announced soon.
“I was lucky that option was still available. I’m planning to play and I’m planning to coach and devote my time to young talent.”