Fife Flyers crowd appeal as numbers drop despite best ever start to Elite League

A crowd scene from 2014, when Fife Flyers attendances averaged 2200, over 400 more than currently attend games. Pic: Neil Doig
A crowd scene from 2014, when Fife Flyers attendances averaged 2200, over 400 more than currently attend games. Pic: Neil Doig

Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume is hoping that his team’s winning form can entice more fans along to Fife Ice Arena – and ease the financial burden on the club.

While the team is enjoying success, riding high in second place in the Elite League and keeping pace with leaders Belfast Giants, crowds have dropped from last year, averaging around the 1750 mark, putting a strain on a club that sets a benchmark of 2000 punters.

While it is widely recognised that the club could do more in terms of marketing and PR, on the ice, Dutiaume and his players are giving people plenty reason to come out and support the team.

And with old adversaries Sheffield Steelers set to visit the rink this Saturday, the head coach is hopeful that a few more supporters will be tempted through the door.

“We’ve seen numbers dropping even though it’s started out as one of our most successful seasons ever, and that really hurts the club,” Dutiaume told the Press.

“We’ve put a product on the ice that is one of the best we’ve seen, and I can only worry about bringing success here, but I know that 2000 is the mark where we’re not bleeding money.

“As usual our crowds are loud and passionate, and they certainly voice their opinions, but it would be nice to see a few more of them in the stands doing that.”

Flyers EIHL attendances peaked in season 2014-15 at approximately 2200, however, that has steadily declined year-on-year with this season’s average sitting below last year’s figure of 1809.

“The time we had a big baddie on the team we were in last place and you couldn’t get a seat in the building,” Dutiaume said.

“But hockey in the UK is changing. There is a new remit of rewarding speed and skill, which is going to take time to filter through all aspects of the league.

“The game is transitioning all over the world, and I wouldn’t say it’s a bad transition.

“Back in the days when I played there was certainly entertainment for all factions, but for now the game is going through another transition, like it has throughout history.”

Dutiaume also sympathised with fans over the cost of following the club in the EIHL.

“Although I say week in, week out that the fans are our lifeblood and that’s how we succeed, on the flipside we’re asking a lot of people,” he said.

“It’s a heavy schedule, and the costs of the game are just going up, on my boss’ side as well.

“The game is getting expensive for kids to play, to find ice, and certainly to come and watch.”

Flyers are currently four points behind leaders Belfast but have two games in hand, although Dutiaume is not concerned with the title race for now.

“That’s not really our primary focus,” he said. “We’ve come up with a formula that’s been very successful for our club over the last couple of years.

“That is not to focus on the teams around us, or on long-term goals. We keep them short and we work from week-to-week.

“If things are going great, we tweak, if things aren’t we attempt to fix them. It’s worked well.

“By not coming out and saying we want to win a trophy, or fretting about the schedule in March, we’ll worry about who we have this weekend.

“It ensures we don’t get cluttered up with thoughts that are irrelevant at this point.”

Saturday’s visitors, Sheffield, are picking up after a horror start to the season which left them bottom for a spell.

It begins a challenging week for Fife which also takes them to Nottingham Panthers on Sunday, before a third midweek trip of the season to Cardiff Devils on Wednesday.

“It’s a good test for us,” Dutiaume added. “Our plan is to compete for all six points, and the guys just need to be focused and ready to go.”