LEGENDARY Coventry Blaze forward Russell Cowley has announced he will retire at the end of the season, prompting the number 17 jersey to be retired in his honour.
The 33-year-old will hang up his skates following a 18 year career which started in 1999 when signing for Swindon Chill.
Since then, Cowley has gone on to play in the sport’s top British league, represented Team GB on more than 60 occasions and played in over 920 Blaze fixtures.
Except for a single season with the Cardiff Devils during 2006/07, Cowley has been an ever present at the Skydome Arena – completing 16 seasons with the club and celebrating a testimonial year in 2012.
During the time, the number 17 has lifted a British National League double, the Elite League three times, two playoff championships, a Challenge Cup and a Knock-Out Cup – including the Grand Slam in 2004/05.
At the end of this season, Cowley will depart the club holding the record for most all-time appearances for Blaze and the second for all-time EIHL competition appearances of any player in the league.
The talented skater has switched between forward and defence over the years and has posted 154 goals and 298 assists.
Cowley aims to end his playing career by participating in the World Championships – Division 1B – taking place in Belfast.
In recognition of Cowley’s achievements on ice, Blaze chairman Andy Buxton confirmed the number 17 jersey will be retired and raised to the Skydome rafters.
Only Blaze legends including #12 Steve Chartrand, #25 Adam Calder, and #26 Dan Carlson have received such honours.
Buxton said: “Russell has been such a great servant to the club.
“It’s going to be strange to see a Blaze team take to the ice without number 17 in the line-up.
“But there comes a point in every player’s career when they feel the time is right to hang up the skates and Russell can look back on an amazing journey that has seen him win just about everything in the British game.
“It’s been a privilege for us to have him here for so long and he has been an incredible ambassador for this club and our great sport.
“We will certainly miss him.”
Blaze fans voiced their support for Cowley’s remarkable career by standing for applause during the 17th minute of Sunday’s home game against Braehead Clan.
Cowley’s jersey will be retired early next season.