Dingle blown away by ‘fantastic’ fans at EIHL play-offs

Ryan Dingle receives Fife Flyers Mirror of Merit award from Matthew Elder, head of sport, Fife Free Press (Pic: Steve Gunn)

Ryan Dingle receives Fife Flyers Mirror of Merit award from Matthew Elder, head of sport, Fife Free Press (Pic: Steve Gunn)

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Ryan Dingle will take the most positive of impressions home from the EIHL play-off finals weekend.

The Fife Flyers forward was knocked out by the atmosphere at the NIC in Nottingham - and the fact it was a celebration of hockey featuring fans from every team in the league.

For Dingle, that was a new experience.

His career has taken him across the North American leagues and into Europe, but he has never witnessed a play-off finals weekend UK style where rival fans form allegiances for the weekend, as well as chanting for their own team even if it isn’t even competing.

‘‘It’s fantastic,’’ he said. ‘‘Something like this is really special.

‘‘I’ve played in finals featuring four teams in my university days, and their fans all turn up, but here it is league wide.

‘‘They come and then team up and support other teams - that’s unique to the UK. They also chanted for their teams who weren’t here - it’s fantastic. I have never seen something like this.’’

Dingle scored Flyers goal in their 4-1 loss to Panthers to cap what was an outstanding year for him. He was one of the team’s key leaders on ice, and also picked up the Mirror of Merit Trophy run by the Fife Free Press - the club’s traditional player of the year award which dates back to the 1950s.

The names of every past winner is etched on the wall of the dressing-room, and his will extend a lineage of players whose contribution was deemed outstanding.

It was a fitting honour for a player often referred to as the engine room of the team.

And for Dingle, it’s been a great year - a year in which he also became a father.

‘‘I have loved living and playing here,’’ he said. ‘‘My wife and I love exploring new places and checking out the world, and this has been really great fun.’’

He has no plans yet to hang up his skates.

‘‘I absolutely want to carry on playing. I take it year by year -I’m lucky my wife lets me live out my dreams playing hockey.’’