Fife Flyers: Opening night win signals return to normality after 570-day absence
Normality finally returned for Fife Flyers’ fans after 570 days.
The prospect of a first ice hockey game since before lockdown brought a huge crowd to Fife Ice Arena.
The queue wound its way round the rink on the sunniest of September evenings, and Rosslyn Street was again filled with folk rolling up the hill, all clad in gold, white and blue tops.
It may only have been a pre-season game against Dundee Stars, but it was an important gathering after such a long time off the radar.
Flyers were worthy 1-0 winners, with new import James Anderson capping a fine performance with the winning goal.
For Todd Dutiaume, head coach, it was the winning start he wanted to let his roster filled with players new to the town and the league, get a feel for hockey nights in Kirkcaldy.
“We heard the drums banging before we came out of the dressing room,” he said. “The hairs on the back of our necks stood up - everyone was very excited to be back.”Dutiaume urged his team, which has only been together a matter of days, to go out, compete and skate hard - and, importantly, get the fans behind them, something that was missing during the curtailed 2019-20 campaign which flat-lined badly.
Minus imports defencemen James Isaacs and Kristian Blumenshein - yet to arrive, and one more import, yet to be announced, Flyers skated well in a pre-season game which was played at a pace needed to shake the rust from skates which have barely been touched in the last 18 months.
After a 4-1 loss in Dundee on Friday, Fife were well served by Anderson, while Shane Owen looked rock solid between the pipes, and Scott Jamieson logged early ice time to stake his place for a regular slot.
They survived a scare in the 15th minute when Dillon Lawrence’s wicked wrist shot flew off Owen’s far post, but carved out their own chances, with the powerplay showing encouraging early signs.
The deadlock was finally broken, with the extra man, after 45 minutes when Imants Lescos pulled the trigger from the blue line, the puck was parried to the side for Matt Carter to chip it across goal, and Anderson applied the finishing touch.
His celebrations showed much much it meant to him, the team - and the fans.
Post-game the player admitted it felt fantastic, adding: “”It was really great to get that goal - and hear the fans.”
Anderson only arrived in town midweek and admitted he was still finding his feet.
“I moved into my apartment yesterday and have been getting everything sorted. Now I’m getting accustomed to the town, and I’ve loved it so far.”
Anderson could emerge as one of the key players on a team with still bristles with new-ness.
His game? “Up and down the ice, make passes and plays, - and use my speed.
“And bash a few bodies in the corner.”
The real test comes next weekend when Fife head to Coventry, and then host Belfast Giants in the Challenge Cup on Sunday.
Dutiaume is under no doubt about the task ahead: “It is important to step it up again. Coventry have a very good nucleus of returning players, and they had a very successful season last time round.”