Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume has promised to put entertainment first after the club confirmed that he will remain at the helm for the 2017-18 season.
One of Dutiaume’s key aims in what will be his landmark 20th season as a Flyer will be to address the downward trend in attendances over the past two seasons.
Flyers average crowd peaked in the 2014-15 campaign hovering around the 2200 mark, but last season’s figure dipped below 1900.
With making ends meet in a financially demanding Elite League among the number one concerns for the directors, Dutiaume’s twin targets will be delivering success, and putting bums on seats.
And that will mean a team that not only wins games, but also excites, enthralls – and packs a punch.
“This is a hockey town and we need to put together a club that is not only going to be competitive, but reflects what this town wants to see and get behind,” Dutiaume told the Press.
“This club needs players that are hard-nosed, and aren’t going to be pushed around.
“In the era of the EIHL, people have responded when we’ve had that bit of toughness in the line-up.
“I think it’s crucial we locate that, not only in an individual player, but in a team ethos.
“I think this town will respond to that, but we also can’t lose our advantage of the big ice at home, where we have speed and talent intermingled in that.
“No matter what anybody says we’re a gate-based club and to thrive as an organisation we have to provide the product people want to see week in, week out.
“It’s getting difficult with the vast financial differences in this league, but it’s not impossible, and now that the club is confirmed in the EIHL for another season, there’s a positive feel around the place.
“I’m proud to be going into my 20th year and I’m looking for a real positive experience, not only for myself but for everybody involved in the club.”
Dutiaume stressed that the recent period of uncertainty over the club’s EIHL future will not hamper his player recruitment, despite seeing captain and team leader Ryan Dingle depart for Coventry Blaze last week.
“I’ve had extensive talks with Ryan since January, but teams have been circling since before the end of last season, the guy has a family, he wants to have security, and he has to make decisions for the best of his family,” Dutiaume explained.
“We had to do what’s best for the club as well. There would have been no sense in the club signing me, then allowing me to talk to players, if there was uncertainty over the future.
“It would have been unfair to myself, the club and the player. Ryan was a professional in his time here, extremely well liked, and left it out there every game. He’ll be missed, but nobody is irreplaceable.
“I’ve talked to a number of players. We are advanced in talks with four or five right at this moment, and things look very positive.
“We have to replace some key guys this year but the hockey world is full of exciting, dynamic players and we’re going to strive to build the best club we can on the budget I’ve been given.”
Dutiaume leads Flyers into their seventh EIHL season, and he will hoping to finally get his hands on some silverware after missing out on the conference title to Braehead Clan in each of the last two seasons.
“Last year was a bit of a disappointment in that I don’t think we realised our potential,” he said.
“Without sounding like I’m making excuses, I think injuries had a lot to do with that - albeit I recruited an older team and that comes along with it.
“What it all came down to was the Braehead series. The year before we went 6&2 against them, but they flipped the record on us. That shows how big the rivalry really is.
“No matter what guys accomplished for the rest of season and the incredible feat in gaining a plus .500 record against all the big budgets in the southern conference, it will always be overshadowed by our record against Braehead.
“They had our number and it’s something we really need to turn around this year.”
Dutiaume, who confirmed that he will be assisted by Jeff Hutchins for a second consecutive season, also hopes to develop a closer relationship with fans.
He voiced his own concerns to directors over the club’s often reclusive approach to PR and is keen to play his part in making the club more open and accessible.
“We’re going to have increased duties, on and off the ice,” he said.
“As coach I sometimes go intraverted and don’t show what we’re doing behind the scenes as much. There’ll be a lot more transparency form myself. I want to have more interaction with the fans.
“We will be showing pictures of guys at the gym, in the community, at team meals, and in the dressing room before games. I was a little slow off the mark in the digital age, but it’s what people want.
“They want the whole experience. They don’t just want to sit there and watch hockey. I’m sometimes a purist when it comes to that.
“But nowadays it’s a whole package and if, as a group, we’re saying we need people in the seats, we really need to provide the full package.
“I feel we are more than capable of doing it and people are excited about taking these initiatives into the new season. Now it’s up to myself to put a good team together.”
Dutiaume also stated that he hopes to make his first signing announcement soon, adding: “We are keen to get announcements out to the community as quick as possible.
“We’re relatively close, and we’ll start getting names out as soon as they are confirmed.”
Flyers have put season tickets on sale and announced gate prices for next season. For full details visit Fife Flyers Official Website.