A new season of ice hockey will get underway on September 2.
The EIHL has released its fixtures for the 2017-18 campaign which will see the league expand from ten to 12 teams.
Fife Flyers’ traditional Saturday night home games still dominate the schedule, but fans again face a number of Sunday matches as well as midweek action and a festive schedule that will see the team play four games in five days ... with only Christmas Day off.
The 62-game schedule comprises 31 home and 31 away matches and runs until the end of March 2018. That figure excludes play-offs, a potential finals weekend, and the relaunched Elite Scottish Cup.
And the changes are evident from day one as Flyers open with a home game against Belfast Giants in the Challenge Cup on Sunday, September 3 – it may be the new-look team’s first game together as Flyers have yet to announce any exhibition matches.
The Elite Scottish Cup, the competition many fans anticipated as a pre-season tournament, then takes over the schedules the following weekend as all four Scottish clubs converge on Murrayfield Ice Rink for their own round-robin event.
Flyers’ first league game isn’t until September 23 when Coventry Blaze come to Kirkcaldy.
The club’s first triple header crops up in October with home games against MK Lightning on Friday 20th and Braehead on Sunday 22nd sandwiched around a road trip to Manchester.
Next February sees the club face a tough return trip to Belfast on Friday 9th ahead of a weekend action at home to Coventry on the Saturday and then in Edinburgh on the Sunday.
The more traditional double header road trip falls in November with the team at Cardiff on the 18th and then Guildford on Sunday – their first visit to the Spectrum Arena since the demise of the old BNL where both teams developed a strong rivalry.
The schedule around Christmas looks punishing with Flyers facing four games between December 22 and 26 - and only Christmas Day itself is a rest day.
They are in Dundee on the 22nd, Guildford on the 23rd and back to host Stars on Christmas Eve and Edinburgh Capitals on Boxing Day.
But the real test lies in March as the season reaches its climax.
Flyers have 10 games that month and only three at home - and two of them are midweek.
It’s a grim piece of scheduling for a club whose budgets are heavily reliant on income at the gate.
Flyers’ only Saturday home game that month is against Manchester Storm on March 3.
They then have a home game against Edinburgh on Wednesday 14th, followed by a tough midweek double header - Flyers are in Nottingham on Tuesday 20th, returning home to play Sheffield Steelers on the 21st.
They then wrap up their regular season with a road trip to Milton Keynes on the 24th.
In total Flyers play 17 home games on their preferred Saturday night, nine on Sunday, and have three Wednesday matches, one on a Tuesday and one on a Friday.
Sunday road trips still dominate – 17 in all – with 10 Saturday away games, three Wednesday matches and one on a Tuesday.
With demand for Saturday night ice time at a premium across the league, all clubs have had to bite the bullet and compromise.
Jeff Hutchins, assistant coach, said: ‘’With all teams now wanting Saturday nights it is tough to keep everyone happy.
“We have some ‘three in threes’ but so does everyone else.
“We will get on with it, and although our schedule around Christmas is packed at least all the games are relatively close.”
The fixtures launch came with much more of a fanfare from Tony Smith, league chairman, who anticipated ‘’a fascinating season’’ adding: “Having two new teams gave the compiling of fixtures a new challenge, not to mention the revamped Conferences and Challenge Cup groups.
“All teams have worked together to deliver a schedule that will herald another exciting, tight and competitive season.
“Now the fans can look forward to planning their weekends and what away trips they’ll take in a title race I believe could be the most hotly contested in Elite League history.”
Flyers’ fixture list is here: