Ned Lukacevic believes he has finally found what he’s been looking for in Kirkcaldy.
The Montenegro-born left winger has struggled to settle at clubs in recent years, but his four months at Fife Flyers last season left him feeling like he had found a second home.
And the skilled 28-year-old Canadian national revealed that the decision to return to the club next season was an easy one.
“To come back to Fife for another season was not a hard decision,” he told the Press.
“I enjoyed my time there on and off the ice, and was treated very professionally day in and day out.
“Fife also gave me the opportunity to play my role as an offensive and dynamic forward, and in return I was able to be a help to the team.
“It made for a very fun season for myself and made the game enjoyable again. The one thing about Fife was hockey was fun, really fun.
“Hockey is such a business that sometimes that side of it interferes with the game itself, but that wasn’t the case for me with Fife.”
Lukacevic scored an impressive 44 points in 34 games last season but it wasn’t all plain sailing for him at Fife Ice Arena as the team struggled for results during a tough first month following his arrival.
He explained: “The biggest thing that got me through was my team mates and the coaches, Danny and Dutes, who kept telling me to just relax and not put too much pressure on myself.
“They really gave me chances to succeed as a player and gave me more than a few opportunities when things weren’t going well for myself. They didn’t give up on me.
“And most importantly my team mates gave me confidence and let me be creative.
“They were very supportive when I wasn’t at my best and always picked me up.
“That’s what a team is all about. We were a family.”
Lukacevic developed into a key player as Flyers went on a stunning late season run that only came to an end following an agonising 1-0 defeat to league champions Belfast Giants in the play-off semi-finals in Nottingham.
“It was obviously heart-breaking, but it’s something I’ll never forget,” Lukacevic added.
“My highest point was probably when we beat our rivals Dundee to move onto Nottingham. I remember seeing their arena half packed with Flyers fans and thinking this is pretty special.
“On the opposite end the lowest point was probably a game versus Cardiff when I was kicked out for a selfish penalty for yelling at the referees for a bad call.
“I let the team down and that left a sour taste in my mouth. I remember being embarrassed.
“After that game I went to the rink everyday and said I need to be better and help my team mates get better because I’m nowhere near where I need to be.”
Lukacevic is eagerly looking forward to next season and has set his targets on a return to the Nottingham finals.
“I think we will have a team next year that can go the distance again,” he said.
“I know that myself along with whoever else returns next year will have one goal and that will be to go to Nottingham again and win the title.
“It will be a long road to get there but winning a championship for the first time in my pro career would be really special, and what better place to do it?”
Lukacevic’s return has been met with a very positive reaction from Flyers fans, leaving the player feeling overwhelmed.
He added: “I’m very humbled and I would be lying if I said it didn’t feel good - it excites me.
“To play somewhere where fans enjoy watching me play gives me excitement to play in front of them.
“My team mates also deserve a lot of recognition because without them my success would not have been possible.
“It’s really easy to look good when your playing with great players who make your job easier.”
Head coach Todd Dutiaume reckons Lukacevic could be among the Elite League’s top points scorers if he delivers consistency - the player himself agrees.
“I want to work on being consistent every night - really being the best guy night in and night out,” he said.
“I need to make sure that I’m accountable every night and in every situation.
“It’s something that I have lacked over my pro career and something I’m really going to work on for this season.
“It’s really nice to hear Dutes and Danny speak highly of me and my skill set, and it’s a great compliment to hear them say I could be the top scorer in the league.
“It’s easy to play when the bosses believe in you and give you the confidence to play creative and dynamic.
“That’s why I was able to find my scoring set in Fife.
“I have a high standard for myself, but I don’t necessarily have a goal of being the leading scorer in the league.
“What I do have is a goal to be the best every night and help Fife win every night.
“When the team has success everybody stems from it. I’m excited to get back to where we left off last season.”