Counting down to new ice age

Todd Dutiaume
Todd Dutiaume
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The ice is about to go down, the rink is almost ready ... and Fife Flyers are counting down to a brand new season of action. Todd Dutiaume looks

ahead as his players prepare to regroup once more in the dressing-room.

Fife Flyers Head Coach Todd Dutiaume says he’s looking forward to the start of the new hockey season and says consistency will be the key to a successful year at Fife Ice Arena.

Work has been going on behind the scenes to add names to the side and to get the stadium ready for the 2014/15 season in the Elite Ice Hockey League.

With new signing Scott Fleming having been announced this week, and another defenceman soon to follow, Dutaime says that not having to bring in too many news faces over the summer will be a big benefit to the team out on the ice as the majority already know each others’ game.

“This summer we didn’t have to recruit a whole new team,” he said.

“People don’t understand the amount of man hours that goes into trying to put a whole team together.

“It was an easier summer from a hockey perspective. It certainly helped me and I was able to have a bit more of a break.”

Dutiaume said that the arena is almost ready for the players returning to training next week - all they need now is some ice!

“It is going down right now,” he said. “It’s about a week’s process.

“There’s a huge ice pad to freeze and then they build up the ice on top of it.

“The thing that really takes the most time is the painting. They’ve got to paint the ice white, paint the lines in and put the sponsors’ badges on.”

With the home grown players returning for pre-season next week Todd said he’s looking forward to seeing the new summer signings slot into his side.

“The local guys will be skating Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then the imports will be coming in on the following Monday for a whole week of practice.

‘‘That’ll take us up to our exhibition games against Aalborg Pirates.”

Flyers will be taking on the Danish side who play in the AL-Bank Ligaen at the Fife Ice Arena on both Saturday and Sunday in the Bay Hotel Challenge, the first opportunity for fans to see the new summer signings, ands welcome back their heroes who reached the championship play-off finals weekend.

It’ll be the debut for Fleming along with Fort Wayne Komet buddy, Chris Auger.

Dutiaume says: “Scott Fleming is a North American speedy centreman - he’s going to give us a little added offensive punch.

“That just about completes our signings up front so we’re looking right solid up there.

“Between Chris Auger, Danny Stewart and Scott we’re really happy about how the middle is shaping up.”

The head coach said there are no injuries to any players lingering from last year and is hopeful that with so few changes made to the squad it will foster an understanding between the players when they return for pre-season training.

“Because we have such a high percentage of returning guys we don’t have to teach the whole team how we run things,” he said. “It’ll be the new guys piecing in.

“We’ll keep the training simple right off the bat. The first couple of weeks will definitely be focused on game fitness.

“No matter what you do over the summer, skating hard for 60 minutes is really tough - you can’t make up for that - so that’s what these exhibition games are for.

“The Brits will have a good three weeks of skating with us, the imports two weeks, and then we’ll go from there.”

After the well deserved summer break, Dutiaume says he’s expecting his players to return to training in good shape.

“For the imports that’s their full time job so a lot rests on their shoulders,” he said.

“They know that they have to come back in shape because if they don’t they just won’t be here. So they’ll be in great shape.

“It’s a bit trickier with the locals in that these guys haven’t had a break; they’ve finished the season and they’re still working full time.

“But they’re young guys so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be fit.

‘‘It is a tough, impact sport so they players do need to let their bodies recover, but we’ve got three weeks to get it going.

“We’ll just build it up bit by bit so we don’t have any pulled muscles or get any strains.”

Once the training is over it’s time for the hard work to begin on the ice.

The opening league game against Coventry Blaze at Fife Ice Arena on September 6 is less than one month away and looking ahead Todd says that Flyers need to be realistic when it comes to setting targets for the season.

“It would be easy for me to say, yeah, we want to win silverware, but there’s been some incredible signings across the league, it looks like it’s taken another step up.

“But what we did last year when we went on that good run was that we didn’t worry about other folk, we worried about ourselves.

“So what we ask of the guys this year is consistency.

“If we show up every night then we give ourself a chance to get points and a great chance of going on a run for the division trophy and the league trophy - those are the big ones.

“In the other competitions, if we get to the later stages, we’ve shown that in a one off game or a two-legged affair anything can happen.

“We think we have the team that can be competitive and now it’s just up to us to transfer it from paper and deliver on the ice and I think we’ve given ourselves a great chance by having such a high percentage of guys back.”

Whilst pinpointing consistency as a huge part of being successful, Dutiaume says he will be on his guard when it comes to any complacency creeping in.

“What we want to avoid is anybody becoming complacent,” he said.

“Sometimes when you come back to a team for two or three years you maybe don’t have that fire in your belly but from talking to the guys recently, that‘s not the case.

“They really enjoyed their second half of the season, as much as they hated the first half, but that gives them the motivation not to have any repeats of that.

“I’ve been in touch with them and everybody is looking forward to getting back, they’re all up for it so the signs are good.”

The forthcoming season will be another test for Dutiaume’s coaching abilities.

He admits that in retrospect it took him a little time to adjust to being the man in charge on the bench.

“I was always a player at heart. I think sometimes I still am though the body doesn’t always allow you to do things your head thinks you can!

“But I’ve got a lot more comfortable with it now, although the last three years we were under an incredible amount of pressure all the time.

“The first year back in the Elite League we just didn’t compete and we didn’t do well. The second year we improved. We did well at home and we made the play-offs.

“Then last year we came under some heavy, heavy criticism at the start of the season, we found ourselves in last place for a good portion of it, but we managed to turn it around and the hockey became a lot of fun in the second half of the season which made my job a little easier. I know the expectations for the season are high, but so are ours and I’m feeling good about it.”

•Flyers will face Aalborg Pirates on Saturday August 30 and Sunday 31.