FURIOUS Fife Flyers coach Todd Dutiaume has hit out at the ‘unacceptable’ situation that has left his team without a match this weekend – and supporters out of pocket.
Flyers were due to travel to Belfast Giants for an Elite League match this Friday, but the hosts cancelled the fixture last month so they could play Nottingham Panthers instead.
The shock postponement came too late for some Fife fans, with the official supporters’ club claiming that between 80 and 100 fans had already booked into travel and accommodation.
Dutiaume told the Press: “Belfast lost their Saturday ice to a boxing match, moved Nottingham back to Friday, and bumped us off the schedule.
“That’s unacceptable in my opinion and I’ve never heard of anything like it in my life.
“We get a schedule and we make plans for that, travel plans, work plans, all kinds of plans.
“They then try to force us to play three games in three nights in February. We’ve said no, we’ll come in January.
“There’s been a total lack of respect for the northern teams, but we knew that going into this season.
“If they are just going to flaunt it in our face hopefully our guys will be fired up next time we play them.”
Flyers’ director Jack Wishart has been left “outraged” by Belfast’s actions.
“It’s totally unacceptable the way Belfast has treated our fans,” he said. “I spoke to one fan who had already booked to take his family across and it’s cost him £600.
“If they lost their Friday ice then fair enough, we’d have to accept that, but they didn’t.
“I made my feelings about it known at an Elite League board meeting and one member commented that we had been shown a total lack of respect.”
A spokesman for Belfast attempted to explain the change: “This date was the only date that we could play the Panthers at the Odyssey Arena.
“We did look to see how many travelling fans this affected from Fife and to date (October 23) there have been no tickets bought for the away section and only two purchased online from a Scottish address.
“We understand many fans will be upset but there is nothing we can do about it and unfortunately we are not obligated or able to offer refunds for any travel plans already made.”
An Elite League spokesman added: “The League sympathises with both clubs in what was a difficult situation.
“Arena clubs have a tough time in finding available dates throughout the season and Belfast were left with little option but to make the changes.”
Dutiaume added: “The league needs to get a structure in place to deal with these things.”
The spat had added extra spice the upcoming visit of Belfast to Fife Ice Arena next Saturday, with Flyers staging a ‘Pack the Barn’ promotion in a bid to boost the crowd.
Before then, Flyers travel to Braehead Clan for a Gardiner Conference match on Wednesday, which comes after 12 days without a game.
“We’ll use the break as a positive and look to get some injuries cleared up,” Dutiaume added.
WIN tickets to Fife Flyers ‘Pack the Barn’ match against Belfast Giants on Saturday, Decemeber 8 in this week’s Fife Free Press.