Newcastle North Stars great Rob Starke has defended his decision to coach rivals CBR Brave as the best thing for his family and career.
The Canadian defenceman won four Australian Ice Hockey League championships in a 281-game career with Newcastle from 2004 until his retirement in 2015.
The Brave, who were founded three years ago in Canberra, have emerged as one of Newcastle’s fiercest rivals after North Stars coach Andrew Petrie criticised them for poaching star import Geordie Wudrick on the eve of last season. Newcastle beat the Brave in the AIHL grand final in September.
I appreciate that there will be some bitterness and backlash from certain people.Rob Starke
"I appreciate that there will be some bitterness and backlash from certain people, and the controversy will be out of my control,” Starke said on Monday. “However, it is important for people to know that the decision to move is with mixed emotions but a move that we believe is best for our family and my career as a lawyer.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of passionate fans in Newcastle, and there might be an element of confusion as to what’s happening and what my motivation is. I think I’ve always gotten along with the fans, and I trust that they would understand my decision-making process.”
Newcastle open the season on April 22 and 23 on the road then host the Brave the following Sunday.
Starke said he was grateful to the North Stars organisation, fans and sponsors for making him feel welcome after he spent four years playing in Europe.
“We value our friendships in Newcastle and consider ourselves lifelong members of the North Stars family."
The 39-year-old said he had entertained the notion of a coaching role at the North Stars after hanging up his skates but said it was not ideal so soon after playing.
“For the time being they have an excellent coaching staff,” Starke said.
“I probably could have complemented that coaching staff and perhaps helped the two current coaches, but it just wasn’t in the cards on the basis that those are all my former teammates, and as a coach you have to create a time gap between playing and coaching.
“I think I recognised that, and so did the North Stars.”