Fife Flyers: First signing announcement lays foundations for a new post-lockdown team
It could be a starter for ten question in an ice hockey quiz: Name the first player to be signed by your club each summer?
In Fife Flyers’ case the answer is easy - Bari McKenzie.
For the past three seasons he has been the go-to player to kick-start the team building process every fan is eager to digest.
The veteran British forward brings a lot to the table, both on and off the ice, so ticking off his name is akin to laying the foundations of the new roster.
A hugely solid team player - he has previously been Flyers’ British player of the year and its unsung hero - he brings vast experience and a commitment to do whatever is needed.
As head coach Todd Dutiaume put it: ““What you see is what you get with Bari.”
Off the ice, the way he engages with fans on social, media is also key - he is an important connection between the dressing-room and the stands, particularly for a club which has so often vanished off the radar when it comes to PR.
Those connections will be more important than ever as the sport slowly emerges from a prolonged lockdown.
On the ice, clubs need players who know the EIHL inside out, and few can match Bari’s CV.
He first iced in the league with Coventry Blaze in 2004-05 after stepping up from Milton Keynes Lightning.
He had brief spells at Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils before returning north of the border where he has the unique distinction of icing with all four Scottish clubs top -Fife, Glasgow Clan, Edinburgh Capitals and Dundee Stars
But Fife remains special to him.
He said: “I genuinely feel at home in Fife now.
“I have loved my time here and I strongly believe next season is going to be special - not just getting back playing at the auld barn but having a bounce back season after the disappointment of not playing in the 2020/21 season.
“I am really looking forward to seeing all the fans backing us next season and give all the new and returning players a massive Flyers welcome. I know how passionate our fan base is and it will be exciting to see you all again.”
For his coach, Todd Dutiaume, Bari’s signing is the first building block in place for a team which will step into a different world of COVID protocols which will govern much of how it operates on and off the ice - but the routine of training, playing and travelling is one that will quickly be re-established.
His line-up will almost certainly feature some more familiar faces – guys he knows, trusts, and enjoys working with – as well as a clutch of new imports.
Much will depend on how players have adapted during a prolonged lay-off which will span some 18 months before the puck drops once again.
The hiatus will have impacted on individual career paths, but the opportunity to lace up and skate again will be just as strong.
Said Dutiaume: “Bari is the start of our signings for 2021/22 and I hope the fans are excited as I am to see who we have coming in.”