Fife Flyers final emotional salute

Fife Flyers line up for the Consolation Final versus Nottingham Panthers at he 2018 play-off finals (Pic: Richard Davies)
Fife Flyers line up for the Consolation Final versus Nottingham Panthers at he 2018 play-off finals (Pic: Richard Davies)

Sunday morning, 10.30 a.m. and Fife Flyers are kitting up to play a game no-one wants to be part off.

The Consolation Final – the poor relation of the finals weekend – is a contractual obligation, and that much is evident by the complete lack of buzz behind the scenes.

Todd Dutiaume, head coach,  Fife Flyers at the 2018 play-off finals (Pic: Richard Davies)

Todd Dutiaume, head coach, Fife Flyers at the 2018 play-off finals (Pic: Richard Davies)

‘’Let’s just do it now and get it out of the way’’ said one as they looked out at an empty rink.

This was Flyers’ third appearance in the sideshow which, once again, was a slow-paced, non-contact effort riddled with goals few, if any players, will count among their own career stats.

But the 2018 game had several factors which attracted a significantly bigger crowd than previous tedious encounters, and gave it a sense of occasion.

For Fife Flyers fans it was a chance to salute, and say farewell, to a team, that has thrilled and entertained them superbly across the season.

Andy Iles, netminder, Fife Flyers at the 2018 play-off finals (Pic: Richard Davies)

Andy Iles, netminder, Fife Flyers at the 2018 play-off finals (Pic: Richard Davies)

And for Nottingham Panthers it was the last game in charge for long-serving coach Corey Neilson – a special moment for him and the team’s huge, noisy support – while David Clarke prepared to hang up his skates.

The game was merely the backdrop to those moments and. like all others, it was endured rather than enjoyed.

The Mexican Waves and crowd fun brought the energy to the rink that the game failed to deliver - there wasn’t a single hit thrown from start to finish.

Panthers won the first and second periods on a 3-1 scoreline en route to a comfortable 8-2 victory.

The hockey buffs will note the game featured sibling of two Fife legends - Jeff Brown, son of Danny, and Brett Perlini, son of Fred. To be honest, their dads could have laced up and done a shift and not looked out of pace.

Jim Jorgensen and Carlo Finucci got Fife’s goals, but all the emotion came in the closing minutes.
With five to play the rink rose to applaud Panthers number five, Clarke, as the clock wound down on his distinguished career.

He was set up more than once to score the final goal, and the smiles all round showed both teams knew the script as he shot wide, saw one effort blocked and then the puck went out the zone.

Finally, a face-off was won, and Clarke hit the net, sparking a special bench clearance to lift him off his skates and carry him back.

For Flyers, there was the final farewell.

It started with coaches Todd Dutiaume and Jeff Hutchins applauding the fans as they left the ice pad, and the players all made their way to the corner where the Fife support was based.

Significantly, the last man to leave was netminder Andy Iles who, 24 hours earlier, had talked with passion of his pride at playing for the club, the coaches and ther guys he called his brothers.

If it was a farewell, then it came from the heart.

As he stepped off the ice pad with his cap pulled down, he paused for a brief moment before making the walk back to the dressing-room.

The last man back in, the door closed and the team shared one last moment together.

They’ll all remember this season for many, many reasons.

This game gave them one last opportunity to skate together and be together. ‘‘We’re a team’’ said one.

The result? It’s forgotten already.