One the most eagerly anticipated dates in the Kirkcaldy sporting calendar is upon us as Fife Flyers begin a new season in the Elite League this weekend.
An exciting start is in prospect as Belfast Giants visit Fife Ice Arena on Saturday, followed by a trip to Braehead Clan on Sunday, both in the Challenge Cup.
Flyers’ 2016-17 roster is undoubtedly the most experienced put together by head coach Todd Dutiaume in the six seasons since the club joined the EIHL – and one bristling with potential.
Former NHLer and Stanley Cup winning defenceman Ric Jackman stands out among a host of veterans including Brendan Brooks, Sebastian Thinel and Russ Moyer – who won the EIHL title with Sheffield Steelers last season.
They will be complemented by younger prospects – the likes of Chase Schaber, netminder Shane Owen and Matt Sisca, the third top scorer in the EIHL last season – as well as a core of returning players from last season.
After securing comfortable back-to-back wins over German third tier side EC Peiting in two warm-up matches last weekend, Dutiaume is eager to see his new-look side in competitive action.
“The squad looks like it has an incredible amount of potential,” Dutiaume told the Press.
“Offensively, I don’t think we’ll be challenged at all to produce. It’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together, finding the guys that work well together, and starting off on a positive note.”
Flyers will be without the injured Phil Paquet this weekend although the Flyers coach has moved to fill the void by bringing in former Dundee Stars defenceman James Isaacs as short term cover.
New recruit Kyle Follmer is also likely to miss the opening games as he has yet to arrive in the country due to delays with his visa paperwork.
“It’s not ideal to be going into the new season short,” Dutiaume said. “You don’t want to over-play guys at the start of the season.
“We have guys on the bench for a reason and they have to be able to play, but to stay competitive and healthy it’s a must that we run with a full complement of imports.
“We’re working hard behind the scenes and hopefully it all comes together.”
Due to a number of late arrivals Flyers only trained with a near full squad for the first time on Tuesday but Dutiaume stressed that his players will be ready to face Belfast.
“We’ve got a lot to cover this week – it’s like having two weeks compressed into one – but we’ve got plenty of ice so there’s no complaints there,” he said.
“We have eight or nine hours of ice this week to work on systems, and get the guys in shape and moving.
“It’s a busy week for them, but these guys are used to intensive training camps.”