Club legend Darren Elliott has called for “togetherness” as the Stars and the Juniors embark on a new era.
Darren, who retired from playing at the end of the season, following a 29 year on-ice career, has signed up as Assistant Head Coach in the junior set up.
The Stars and the juniors have created a baseline platform to begin the journey of working more closely together and developing a junior pathway via the appointment of Simon Anderson as Head Coach of both organisations.
It has been further boosted by the confirmation Darren will be the Assistant Head Coach in the juniors and provide additional support to the Stars on a flexible basis.
Darren spent 27 seasons playing at Oxpens – having graduated from the juniors into the Stars as a teenager.
He said: “The key for me this year is strengthening the togetherness of the Stars and the juniors. It is something the club has been missing for years and it is excellent that the Board have made it a big part of their strategy. I hope that it is the beginning of a new stronger working relationship between the Stars and the juniors.
“We need to create a junior development pathway and a development team for future home-grown players to progress into. It is a massive challenge, but we can make progress.
“Ultimately this means we need to provide a steady programme of development from the lowest ages upwards, so that we become competitive in all age groups in the future.
“We need to create continuity and make sure Oxford is a place where youngsters can be trained well and develop into senior players. It is a three to five-year plan so this will be a slow and steady process, but it is a realistic timeframe for where we want to be.”
Darren, who has a testimonial match at Oxpens on June 16, added: “When the Board and Simon spoke to me about the vision for the club I committed to help.
Oxford means the world to me and I know first-hand just how important being given an opportunity and guidance at a young age is. That’s why I want to continue to help in the juniors and have agreed to take on the deputy role. It will enable me to give something back and hopefully help nurture new players through.
“Unless Oxford focuses on creating a genuine development pathway, we will struggle to produce players of our own which will continue to have a massive negative impact on the Stars.”
Jo Mundy, Committee Member for the Junior Stars, said: “Everyone at the club and the juniors respects Darren and the youngsters look up to him. Having worked his way through the ranks at the Stars he understands the system and he has a wealth of playing experience.
“To have been able to retain Darren in the club following his retirement from playing is huge for Oxford. We’re fortunate to have such a commitment and passionate guy in Darren and I am sure it will really help Oxford develop home-grown players.
”We have got a real gap in youth players coming through right now and it creates a serious challenge for the Stars. This is something that need addressing as a matter of urgency and we are hopeful this is now the beginning of a process that will reverse the issue over time.”