Fife Flyers go Fox hunting ...

Justin Fox signed by Fife Flyers July 2015
Justin Fox signed by Fife Flyers July 2015

There’s a clear theme emerging around Fife Flyers team building for the new ice hockey season.

The fans will not only get to see new faces come September, but also a new ethos.

Grit, hard work, commitment - key words being used to with each passing player signing, a trend that continued with the announcement today of Canadian forward Justin Fox.

The 6ft, 190lbs forward joins Flyers from ECHL outfit Quad City Mallards, and he is another key piece in a jigsaw steadily being unveiled, piece by piece, in the countdown to the 2015-16 campaign.

Without exception the names are all new to these shores. This is a new-look side being built in Kirkcaldy by Todd Dutiaume and Danny Stewart; one that has to bond quickly and make the winning start that is vital to igniting the entire campaign. That’s key.

They are stepping into an EIHL that seems to be getting bigger, and possibly meaner, judging by the number of enforcers being drafted in down south - rumours that DOPS have gone into pre-season training are perhaps wide of the mark - but they are also joining a side that has size across the bench; size, strength, a willingness to get into the dirty areas, to stand their ground front of net, and simply stand their ground, have all dominated the coaching staff’s analysis of each and every signing.

The PR announcing each player has followed that theme:

Matt Delahey - ‘tremendous work ethic... brings a lot of character to the ice.’

Phil Paquette - ‘plays with an edge and uses his size well ... solid D who moves the puck well.’

Ryan Dingle - ‘great two way centre who is going to be looked upon to create offence’

Shayne Stockton - ‘gives us another defensively responsible centre but also one who will produce for us offensively’

And Fox? Perhaps the most eye-catching line was the comparison to Kriss Hogg/Jordan Fulton type of player - that’s exactly what the fans want to hear.

Hogg was a huge player in Fife, while Fulton grafted, agitated and battled night in, night out in a team in which a few others picked and chose the moments to step into the spotlight. Fulton’s idea of a break consisted of barely 20 seconds between shifts - he was back on the ice ready to play.

Fox’s CV includes 71 ECHL games with Mallards with a 51-point 2014-15 campaign (23+25).

Danny Stewart hailed that as ‘‘a breakout season’’ and he knows what he is getting bringing him to Kirkcaldy.

He said: “He brings a lot of energy to the wing. A guy willing to get to dirty areas in the same fashion as a Kris Hogg and Jordan Fulton style of play. He brings us a good combination of physicality and skill and will be in our top six guys to start the year.”

Translate all that into action on the pad and you have the makings of a solid, competitive hockey club.

True, Fife still have berths to fill and players to announce - the deals seem to be already done in most cases - and, intriguingly, guys like Fulton, and also Matt Reber, have been quiet all summer; yet to be announced anywhere, but not publicly linked to anyone, suggesting, perhaps, they could be headed back to the Kingdom? They wouldn’t be the first Fife players to sort out the next season before heading home to simply enjoy the peace and quiet of summer off the radar ... that said, as a few fans have noted, Fox could be viewed as a like for like replacement for Fults?

This week also saw defenceman Jamie Milam confirmed as signing for Slovakian outfit HK Nitra, making him the fifth player from the 2014-15 roster to formally move on; Matt Nickerson, Kevin Regan, Bobby Chaumont and Ned Lukacevic having already departed. So, still scope for a meaner than mean defenceman to fulfil the Nickerson enforcing/policing role?

The signing news over the coming few weeks will surely unveil the full picture for hockey fans in Fife.