ONE of Fife Flyers’ star defencemen from last season could be set for a shock retirement.
Derek Keller is considering hanging up his skates at the age of just 26 to pursue a career away from ice hockey.
Keller was the second top scoring defenceman in the EIHL last season, totalling nine goals and 37 assists over 56 games.
Flyers had hoped to retain the services of the Canadian skater for another season as they look to keep a core of last season’s team.
But they will first have to convince him that his future lies in ice hockey.
“It was definitely a surprise that Derek’s considering retirement,” coach Danny Stewart told the Press.
“He’s not made a final decision, but it’s an example of the sort of dilemma hockey players go through every year.
“They don’t make life-changing money over here, so if guys have better situations outside hockey they have to consider them.”
Flyers have made offers to a number of last year’s roster, with netminder Bryan Pitton understood to be among them.
The players are believed to be considering their options, however Flyers have set a deadline for an answer.
Stewart added: “I am very hopeful that we’ll get a few of them back.
“But if you look down our roster, a lot of players had career best years.
“That can lead players to think ‘I can play at a higher level’.
“They then start looking at other countries and a bigger pay-cheque - and you can’t blame them.
“It’s part of the business and we have to accept that.
“We’ve given the guys time to make their decisions and hopefully we’ll see three or four - or maybe even more - from last year coming back.
“But we’re not just sitting back waiting, we’re putting other options in place.
“There are many more players available to us this summer than there were last year.”
Stewart has already committed to Flyers next season, but his role will depend on Todd Dutiaume’s involvement in the club.
Dutiaume, player-coach for the past eight years, is currently weighing up his options after suffering a broken knee-cap in the final league game of last season.
“Dutes has been a big part of this hockey club for long time and to get a bad injury after all he went through last year, it’s only right that he is given some time to make a decision,” Stewart added.
“Personally, I am committed to coming back to the Flyers under whatever capacity it may be, and we are currently working very hard behind the scenes on putting a team together for next season.”