Fife Flyers look for financial lifeline as games pile up after Christmas shutdown
Ice hockey’s traditional bumper festive programme remains on hold as all three Scottish sides pressed the pause button after the latest restrictions limited crowds to just 200 fans.
Fife Flyers, Dundee Stars and Glasgow Clan were due to meet head to head in all three rinks across the Christmas holidays.
Flyers were due to be in Dundee on Boxing Day but that match, plus the return scheduled for Tuesday 28th, were postponed following the Scottish Government’s decision to put strict limits on the numbers allowed to attend indoor events - a decision which put all three clubs under serious financial pressure.
Flyers’ bumper game against Glasgow Clan in Renfrewshire on Hogmanay is also off.
While the restrictions remain in place for at least three weeks, all three teams have said they remain committed to fulfilling their schedules, and that could mean a return to ice for Fife on Sunday, January 2 when they are scheduled to welcome Clan to Kirkcaldy.
That would mark their first competitive action since December 12, but it would also mean playing to one of the smallest crowds ever at Fife Ice Arena with restrictions still in place.
Ne’er games between Flyers and Clan have often attracted the biggest crowds of the season - often 2500 or more fans with a strong travelling support from the west coast - but just 200 would be allowed rinkside.
All three Scottish teams are working with their respective local authorities to find out more about the financial support packages available to them - and also assessing who, if anyone, gets in to see the games.
There is also dialogue with the Scottish Government and sportScotland.
In a joint statement with Dundee Stars issued just before Christmas, Flyers described the situation as “fast moving and changing very quickly”
The club said the restrictions “puts both Dundee Stars and Fife Flyers in very serious financial danger to keep both clubs pushing on.”The clubs are speaking to councillors and MSPs to try to secure crucial funding.
“As everyone connected to, and engaged with, our great sport of ice hockey will know, we rely heavily on ticket sales at the games.
“Professional ice hockey in the UK is essentially nothing without our fans and with a limit of 200 people recently imposed on us by the Government, it puts both the Dundee Stars and Fife Flyers in very serious financial danger to keep both clubs pushing on.
“Since the announcement, we have approached Sport Scotland as well as local councillors and MSPs to request funding to get us through this difficult period of time.”
Flyers and Stars emphasised they remained committed to getting back on the ice and will go ahead with their schedules – but the road back to action remains uncertain with so many factors out of their direct control.
But the desire to play on remains strong.
“This is the best decision for our players, staff, partners and most importantly our fans,” the clubs said.
“Both clubs are confident and have full aspirations of pushing past this extremely challenging period of time.”
The derby set for January 2 falls deep within the three-week period of restrictions - which could be extended further if COVID cases continue to rise - and kicks off a hectic month which already features 13 games in 28 days and takes the team to England and Wales where restrictions are also different, and open to possible change.
Flyers have one ‘three in three’ weekend booked already plus two midweek Challenge Cup quarter-final ties against Sheffield Steelers - leaving little room to factor in the postponed Christmas games plus the road trip to Coventry slated for December 23 also called off when Flyers were put into the EIHL’s COVID protocols after a positive test result.
Several clubs have hit similar problems, prompting a slew of cancellations and fixture changes across the EIHL, raising concerns among fans over the fate of the 2021-22 campaign.
The problems have also meant that the club’s two Christmas signings have yet to make their debuts.
Centreman Brandon Magee was unveiled on December 17, arriving in town in the hope of making his debut that weekend.
On Boxing Day, the club also added 33-year-old Tommi Jokinen who had been released by Nottingham Panthers after a spell playing as injury cover.
He played almost 750 games in 15 years in Finland before joining Slovakian side HC Presov.