Todd Dutiaume will lead Fife Flyers into a seventh season in the Elite League, the Press can reveal.
We understand the head coach will be confirmed as the first returnee for the 2017-18 ice hockey season which starts in September.
The move comes just a day after Flyers confirmed their EIHL status several weeks after being part of the board meeting which signed off the format of the 12-team expanded league, and the creation of three regionalised conferences.
Dutiaume has been given a budget, we understand, and will now begin the task of building a brand new team – one the fans will expect to deliver a real challenge for conference honours AND entertain.
Flyers laboured badly in the Gardiner Conference last season, playing second fiddle to Braehead Clan in their head to heads until the very end of the campaign, and made little impression on the race for silverware.
Overall, the club finished a solid sixth in the EIHL with its highest points total, but many fans were less than impressed with the quality of hockey on show on some match nights, and the decision to ice without an enforcer – opting instead for team toughness – sparked a season long debate which was never resolved.
With gate money absolutely critical to Flyers’ budgets, all eyes will fall on the type of team Dutiaume builds.
With stand-out netminder Shane Owen already gone – he joined BIK Karlskoga in Sweden almost immediately the season ended – there is at least one major gap to be filled.
Top of the wanted list of returnees, for a huge swathe of the fanbase, is Ryan Dingle, captain and team leader, and Brendan Brooks who signed off the 2016-17 campaign helping Team GB to promotion and a gold medal at the world championships in Belfast.
Dutiaume knows the demands of playing and coaching in Fife better than most.
His association with the club is now close to 20 years.
He is the longest serving import in the club’s history, having signed midway through the 1998-99 season from Telford Tigers when the English side ran into financial difficulties.
He’d previously played against Flyers with Swindon Ice Lords in the 1996 play-off final at the Nynex in Manchester.
He was part of the club’s Grand Slam team, and took over the player-coaching role following Mark Morrison’s return to Canada.
He was with the club through its wilderness years in the SNL, and stayed at the helm to build the first EIHL roster in 2011-12. Since then Dutiaume has established the club in the top flight, and twice taken them to the play-off finals weekend.