Fife Flyers: a smoother fixture list, but clunky cup goes on too long

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Setting the fixtures for any ice hockey season is a game of compromise.

Put ten teams round a table in a hotel room and, even with the aid of computer software - a relatively recent upgrade from endless spreadsheets - and no-one will emerge 100% happy. So many factors come into play; teams’ preferred night for home games, ice time availability, cup quarter-finals, and, probably some old fashioned, hard nosed, stubborn-ness among those pitching for one more tweak.

Every coach and GM wants a schedule that is smooth, and with as few potholes in the road ahead as possible. For Fife Flyers, season 2024-25 feels better than last season.

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Tom Coolen, head coach, certainly let his feelings be known as he dragged an injury hit, exhausted side through a December schedule of 14 games in 28 days, and journeys up and down the M6 - a month that had a significant impact on their final standing. His own preference to play Friday and Sunday would be a real change, but that ain’t happening this season - again, so many other factors have to come into play that I suspect it’s a non starter for some time to come, but it’s definitely an idea worth pursuing.

Fans will be rinskide soon for more high fives when the puck drops (Pic: Derek Young)Fans will be rinskide soon for more high fives when the puck drops (Pic: Derek Young)
Fans will be rinskide soon for more high fives when the puck drops (Pic: Derek Young)

The way we spend our time, and money, have changed fundamentally since lockdown, and the fans of today probably don’t care that hockey on anything other than a Saturday night at Fife Ice Arena was simply unthinkable.

That’s probably just as well considering Flyers’ schedule is a straight split between Saturdays and Sundays, and what is clear is that the gulf in terms of numbers rinkside and the atmosphere generated, has closed in recent seasons.

The days of the old double header road trips are also a thing of the past which is a shame as they were great fun, but a weekend away means zero income for the travelling team. For double headers to work, the clubs need to commit to home games back to back - and that too presents a challenge in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

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Flyers’ schedule feels decent this season with limited midweek hockey, and a December card that is down to 11 games with four of them in Scotland across the festive season. The Challenge Cup is still taking far too long to play out. The last round robin qualifier isn’t until the end of November which is nonsense considering the puck drops on the tournament at the start of September. The clunkiness which has dogged this scruffy competition has yet to be fully

On the plus side, an opening weekend home double header against Glasgow Clan and Belfast Giants is a belter of way to get everyone rinkside - and could set the tone for Flyers’ cup hopes. Of course, any grumbles about the fixtures will melt away the moment the team hits a winning streak …

September: 7 Glasgow Clan (H) CC; 8 Belfast Giants (H) CC; 14 Manchester Storm (H); 15 Dundee Stars (A) CC; 21 Cardiff Devils (A); 22. Glasgow Clan (H) CC; 28 Dundee Stars (H) CC; 29. Guildford Flames (A).

October: 5 Manchester Storm (H): 6. Nottingham Panthers (A); Wed 9. Belfast Giants (H) CC; Fri 11 Cardiff Devils (A); Fri 18. Dundee Stars (A) CC; 19 Guildford Flames (H); 26. Glasgow Clan (A) CC; 27. Dundee Stars (H) CC; Wed 30 Sheffield Steelers (A).

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November: 2 Belfast Giants (A) CC; 3 Nottingham Panthers (H); 9. Glasgow Clan (H); 10. Dundee Stars (A); 16. Belfast Giants (A) CC; 17. Sheffield Steelers (H); 23. Cardiff Devils (H); 24 Coventry Blaze (A); 30. Glasgow Clan (A) CC.

December: 1 Sheffield Steelers (H); 7. Manchester Storm (A); 8 Guildford Flames (H); 14. Nottingham Panthers (A); 15. Coventry Blaze (A); 21 Belfast Giants (H); 22. Belfast Giants (A); 26. Dundee Stars (H); 28. Dundee Stars (A); 30. Glasgow Clan (H); 31. Glasgow Clan (A)

January: 4. Coventry Blaze (H); 5. Guildford Flames (A); 11. Dundee Stars (H); 12. Sheffield Steelers (A); 18. Manchester Storm (A); 19. Nottingham Panthers (H); 24. Glasgow Clan (A); 25. Cardiff Devils (H).

February: 1. Belfast Giants (H); 2. Coventry Blaze (A); 8.Glasgow Clan (A); 9. Dundee Stars (H); Fri 14 Belfast Giants Fife Flyers (A); 16. Cardiff Devils (A); Wed 19 Sheffield Steelers (A); 22. Manchester Storm (A); 23. Glasgow Clan (H).

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March: 1. Cardiff Devils (A); 2. Nottingham Panthers (H); 8.Guildford Flames (A); 9. Coventry Blaze (H); 15. Belfast Giants (H); 16. Nottingham Panthers (A); 22. Guildford Flames (H); 23. Coventry Blaze (H); 29. Belfast Giants(A); 30. Sheffield Steelers (H).

April: 5. Manchester Storm (H); 6. Dundee Stars (A)

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