Brooks makes Clan return as Flyers left ‘behind eight-ball’

Brendan Brooks has returned to Braehead Clan. (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)
Brendan Brooks has returned to Braehead Clan. (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)
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Fife Flyers’ hopes of kick-starting their summer recruitment have suffered a further blow with another key import signing for a league rival.

Fan favourite Brendan Brooks has left the Kirkcaldy side after just one season to return to previous club Braehead Clan, where he has accepted the offer of a player-assistant coaching role working alongside Clan’s new head coach John Tripp for the 2017/18 season.

The 38-year-old forward scored 21 goals in 62 games for Fife last season before winning gold with Great Britain, playing in all five of their World Championship Division 1B ties in April after gaining citizenship.

Brooks’ is the fourth confirmed departure from Fife this summer, and the second to move to a rival EIHL side, following captain Ryan Dingle’s move to Coventry Blaze. Shane Owen and Phil Paquet have also moved overseas, leaving Fife fans desperate for positive signing news.

Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume has admitted that the earlier uncertainty over the club’s future has slowed down his summer recruitment.

Following the end of the season in April, Flyers owners took a month to confirm their intention to remain in the EIHL due to financial concerns, leaving Dutiaume unable to offer any assurances to signing targets.

With 13 weeks until the new season starts, and an empty roster still awaiting its first confirmed signing, the coach admitted to Flyers TV that he is playing a certain degree of catch-up.

“We got off to a slow start but it was important for directors to decide what their position was going forward,” he said.

“It means we lost the first two or three waves of recruitment, so things are going slow, but it doesn’t mean a lot isn’t going on behind the scenes.

“Jeff (Hutchins) and I have been hard at work. We’re a little behind the eight-ball, but we’re in talks with contacts, and offers are out to players.

“It’s not progressing at the speed I would like, but I’m confident of putting together a competitive team.”

As well as failing to hold onto key team leaders from last season, Dutiaume confirmed that he has also missed out on several signing targets.

“It’s frustrating but that’s the realities of the sport,” he said. “We’ve got two outstanding offers right now, that we’re hoping come through. We’re also very close with a player or two returning from last season.

“We possibly would have been looking at a few more guys returning in a Flyers jersey if there wasn’t that time required for the team to decide its future.

“But that’s hockey, players move on and there’s a lot of good players out there. It’s up to us to find them and make sure we put together a good group.”

Dutiaume has, however, called on club directors to review the overall recruitment policy.

“It’s my opinion that this team should review its recruitment methods,” he said. “The way hockey has moved, a lot of agents start putting player lists out in January.

“That’s always been viewed in this team as a conflict of interest, but it’s just the way hockey has moved on, and we might be missing the boat by not beginning recruitment in January.

“It’s something I’ve brought up in the past and might be required to push a little stronger on.”

Meanwhile, the four Scottish clubs have come together to announce a new annual event beginning this year at Murrayfield Ice Rink.

The Scottish Elite Cup will pit Flyers against Braehead Clan, Dundee Stars and Edinburgh Capitals to see who can get an edge ahead of the new season.

This year’s competition will take place over the weekend of September 9 and 10, with Murrayfield to hosting the 2017 competition.

From then on, the venue will rotate with Fife hosting in 2018, followed by Dundee (2019) and Braehead (2020).

The format of the tournament will work on a semi-final/final basis, with the two losing semi-finalists meeting in a third-place play-off.