Fife Flyers: Counting down to hockey night ...

Fife Flyers at EIHL play-off finals weekend'Credit: Steve Gunn
Fife Flyers at EIHL play-off finals weekend'Credit: Steve Gunn

The off-season in ice hockey spans four full calendar months, and yet it can fly past faster than a puck heading into the top corner of the net.

Speaking this week about a summer of signings and activity behind the scenes, Fife Flyers’ head coach, Todd Dutiaume, admitted: ‘‘It feels like we just left the rink a month ago...’’

In fact it was the first weekend in April the team last iced, but the feel-good factor generated by a run all the way to the championship finals still lingers.

In just a few weeks time the players will start drifting back into the dressing-room after a summer in Canada and America, new faces will be introduced - they’ll probably know each other from ‘back home’ - and the old routines will soon become familiar once more. The dressing-room will again become their home.

‘‘It has been a much easier and smoother summer,’’ admitted Dutiaume, ‘‘but it definitely seems like it has been a quick one. For whatever reason, it’s just flown past.’’

Much of that can probably be put down to the Nottingham factor - the adrenalin may have left the system, but the memories burn brightly.

It certainly did the club no harm when it came to recruiting for the 2014-15 season.

‘‘It really, really helped,’’ said Dutiaume. ‘‘There are guys looking at us on the back of that weekend, and more agents want to know us as well, but the beauty is we didn’t have to cast the net for ten or eleven guys this year - we were able to say to them ‘look we only have a few exclusive spots here’ and because of what the team achieved last year lots of players wants to part of it.

‘‘Compare that to the year before and some of the guys retired or moved on - that happens in hockey - but with the run we went on, with the full houses, the atmosphere on game days, the buzz around town and the spirit in the dressing room it all really helped us get guys back.

‘‘And they’re all excited about returning and playing together again.’’

The challenge in year two is to start the way they finished - and if they do that then expectation levels among fans will rise.

The talk is of challenging for silverware rather than just making the play-offs by the width of a hockey blade, and of making their mark in the conference. The bar has been raised.

‘‘The pressure is squarely on the shoulders of our team,’’ said Dutiaume. ‘‘Not just the coaching staff but the fans who expect us to pick up where we left off.

‘‘Nottingham gave us a taste of finals weekends, and we understand now why people want to so much to be part of it.

‘‘We would love to have won it but it was still a great experience for the whole organisation - the guys realise there is more out there than just playing at the weekend and winning.

‘‘We want silverware, and to be able to stand on the ice with the trophy raised above your head ... we were one game from that.

‘‘If come out from day one of this season with that attitude and focus from the start then we will get ourselves into that very position ...’’

The ice goes down in mid-August, and as the temperature falls within the rink, the old building will soon echo to the sound of pucks bounding off boards and the banter of a team doing the hard work behind closed doors, ready for showtime.

For Dutiuame and the players still scattered across the globe it can’t come quickly enough.