Buzz around town ahead of Fife Flyers’ league opener

HEADLINE NEWS: The Fife Free Press will sponsor the home penalty box at Fife Ice Arena this season. Pictured above (from left) are new signings Patrick Cullen, Shayne Stockton and Michael Dorr.  Pic: Fife Photo Agency
HEADLINE NEWS: The Fife Free Press will sponsor the home penalty box at Fife Ice Arena this season. Pictured above (from left) are new signings Patrick Cullen, Shayne Stockton and Michael Dorr. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
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All roads lead to Fife Ice Arena in Kirkcaldy this weekend as Fife Flyers embark on another season at the top level of British ice hockey.

The rink promises to be packed to the rafters - and extremely loud - for the eagerly anticipated Elite League opener against Coventry Blaze on Saturday night.

After last season’s disappointing campaign, the team has been transformed over the summer and will hit the ice with 11 new imports signed from North America.

The fans have responded with record season ticket sales while an impressive crowd of over 2200 took in the pre-season friendly against Belfast Giants last weekend - significantly larger than any Raith Rovers home attendance so far this season.

Ice hockey is once again becoming the biggest show in town.

Todd Dutiaume, Flyers head coach, said: “It’s a result of the community work that our marketing and commercial team have done over the last couple of years.

“But also, regardless of our ups and downs over the last couple of seasonS, people have watched some good hockey in this building and had some very exciting times.

“You can tell from the crowds at our jersey launch and first friendly that there is a buzz about hockey in this town.

“We feel that we’ve definitely put together an exciting and competitive hockey club this year and people will continue to see good hockey games.

“Win or lose I think they’ll see a team that lays it on the line and gives their all every night.”

For the first time since joining the EIHL in 2011, Flyers will start the season with a full compliment of imports after the final arrival, defenceman Nicholas Rioux, jetted into Fife this week.

“We got Nic in early Monday morning so that completes our squad,” Dutiaume said. “We’ll have another full week of going over the systems, and I think it’s good to sharpen up.

“We made our mistakes over the weekend - but that’s to be expected. We’ll tighten those up and, absolutely, we’re looking forward to getting things going.

“We know we’ve got a difficult start but we certainly feel we can go out there and grab points this weekend.”

Dutiaume was encouraged by the exhibition games, in particular the way the team refused to give up in a 4-4 draw with Belfast, and the six different goalscorers in the 6-4 win over Edinburgh.

“Over the course of the weekend I think the majority of our forwards scored a goal,” he said. “I like that - it shows we’re certainly not a one-dimensional team.

“We made a lot of the fact that there was going to be a new group in here. It’s advantageous to us as coaches that we get to implement the schedule we want.

“The guys to their credit have whole-heartedly and enthusiastically jumped into it.

“They are a young and fun bunch, and that’s contagious in itself. We’ve got a good feel around the dressing room right now.”

Coventry are sure to provide a stern test with a roster packed full of attacking flair, including former Flyers forward Ned Lukacevic, who was top scorer in Fife last season.

“Coventry will be a dangerous team and we’ll need to defend well, but we’ve got some firepower of our own, and we want to get off on the right footing,” Dutiaume added.

Face-off on Saturday is 7.15 p.m. Flyers then travel south of the border to face Coventry at the Skydome on Sunday, face-off 5.15 p.m.