It took time for ‘Torch’ to light

KIRKCALDY; - Fife Flyers v Dundee Stars - Jamie Wilson on the puck. photo; WALTER NEILSON
KIRKCALDY; - Fife Flyers v Dundee Stars - Jamie Wilson on the puck. photo; WALTER NEILSON

HIS nickname may be Torch, but Jamie Wilson admits he took his time to light up the Elite League last season.

Like most of his Fife Flyers team mates, the 25-year-old initially struggled with the step up from the Northern League before eventually finding his feet as the campaign wore on.

Wilson believes that the decision to remove the ‘C’ from his jersey was the turning point of his season.

“I was caught in two minds about what I was trying to do as team captain,” Wilson revealed.

“Todd and I had a chat about it, and decided it would be better for me to pass it on to someone with Elite League experience. Danny Stewart fitted the bill, so he took over.

“From then on, I felt a lot less pressure, and I started to play better as well. It was a big weight off my shoulders.”

Wilson had captained Flyers for the three previous seasons, and lifted a number of trophies, but he admits he was not prepared to take on the role at EIHL level.

“It was totally different to being captain of a Northern League team,” he stressed.

“There’s a lot more pressure on you as captain with big crowds coming to watch you, especially when we get off to such a losing start.

“Plus, I was new to the Elite League, and the refs didn’t tend to give me a lot of respect. Stewey has played in the league for years, and spoken to all the referees before so he knew how to deal with them.

“When I spoke to Todd he admitted that it was on his mind as well. I don’t know if I made it easier by approaching him, as opposed to him coming to me.

Concentrate

“But I knew myself that things weren’t right and that changes were needed – I just wanted to concentrate on playing better.

“It was the best decision for the team, and for myself.”

Last year, Wilson’s summer took a bizarre twist when he signed for Dundee Stars, only to return to Fife once they were confirmed as an Elite club. However, he anticipates no such drama during the current close season.

“Flyers didn’t look like they were going to be in the Elite League – I wasn’t sure if they were going to be in a league at all,” he said.

“I took the opportunity to go to Dundee because I wanted the chance to play at Elite level, but when Flyers confirmed they were joining, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make to go back.

“I don’t think Dundee were okay with it at first, but Todd managed to talk to them and help me out. I had signed a contract with them, but I managed to get released.

“I’ve played in Fife all my life, and captained the team, plus it’s right on my doorstep. As long as Fife are an Elite League team, that’s where I want to play.”

Ironically, the man who signed Wilson for Dundee, Dan Ceman, ended up being his team mate in Fife, and the pair struck up a good understanding on the ice.

“I don’t know if it was just a co-incidence, but I started to play better when Dan Ceman arrived from Dundee,” Wilson pointed out.

“I started to get a bit more ice time, and a bit more confidence in my play. Things starting to pick up for me a wee bit.

“It took time to get used to the league – all the local guys were the same.

“Apart from Willie Nicolson, who had played for Edinburgh, we were all going into the Elite League for the first time.

“It was a huge step up in skating speed, and you weren’t able to stand about as much as you could get away with in the Northern League.

“Guys were coming at you harder, and faster, and when I had the puck I felt as though I had to get rid of it really quickly when in reality I probably had more time than I realised.

“Eventually I realised that if you take an extra second on the puck, you can make a better quality play. That was all part of the learning curve if it all.

“Hopefully, if I get back next year, I’ll make a better start at it.”

Wilson scored six points in his debut EIHL season, netting one goal and five assists, which fell short of his aspirations.

“At the start of the season I set a target to get 10 points mark – which I didn’t hit,” he said.

“I’m a wee bit disappointed with my stats, but I won’t be too hard on myself because it was a hectic season, and a lot went on.

“What happened to Todd and his family was awful, and I hope nothing like that ever happens again.

“But aside from that, we had a big turnover of players and a lot of injuries to deal with. We had guys leaving, and guys coming in at different stages of the season.

“It was a lot of chopping and changing. It was a shame when Matt Siddall and Mike Hamilton left because felt we were starting to click as a team and get some good results.”

Chopping

The return of imports gave Flyers dressing room a whole new identity as Canadian, American and Eastern European professionals mixed with the Kirkcaldy joiners and electricians tasting top level hockey for the first time.

“To start with it was hard,” Wilson confessed. “We were all used to having a room full of local guys, but now we were having to speak properly to be understood!

“It just took time for everyone to gel. We were a few steps behind them on the ice and it took a wee while for things to click.

“But once we got used to them, and they got used to us, things became a lot easier and people started to get on a lot better.

“I got on best with Garrett Zemlak, and we had a few memorable nights out! I also sat next to Toms Hartmanis, who is a really great guy. I’ll miss them.”

Wilson’s summer plans include a holiday abroad with his girlfriend and regular trips to Kinghorn Golf Club, where he is a member.

However, he is also planning on keeping himself fit in the gym in the hope that he will be re-signed by Flyers ahead of their second crack at the Elite League.

He added: “Hopefully I’ll be signed by the Flyers again, and this time I’ll look to hit the ground running and hopefully pick up a few more points.”

And as for his nickname, he explained: “That goes back to when I played for the Kestrels.

“One of the boys started calling me Torch, after the TV programme ‘Jamie and his Magic Torch’, but I hadn’t seen it so I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.

“It’s stuck ever since. It’s not the best nickname out there but I suppose it will have to do.”