Fife Flyers' players and fans set for emotional return to ice rink
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Flyers’ game against Glasgow Clan will feature a tribute to the Nottingham Panthers’ import who lost his life playing the game that he loved. It is one of four matches going ahead on Saturday as eight of the ten Elite League teams lace up and wait for the puck drop. Panthers and Sheffield Steelers won’t participate.
It feels strange to be writing, and talking about, a hockey match against such a backdrop, but the decision to play was taken after consultation with the players in each dressing room.
Flyers face Clan in what promises to be an emotional, perhaps even difficult night for those on the ice pad and in the stands. The club then makes the long journey to meet Guildford Flames on Sunday.
Moving the focus back on to winning points, face-offs and finding the net still feels strange given the devastating, unfathomable events at Sheffield last Saturday. The league has been speaking to clubs to offer guidance, but there is no blueprint for how to begin the return to the weekly schedule of games and road trips.
There was no formal midweek media call for Flyers - in common with other clubs - for the sake and welfare of the players, and plans for a fitting tribute are being discussed ahead of Saturday’s game.
The return this week has been gradual. Flyers spent Monday and Tuesday as a group in the gym, and then back on ice on Wednesday for what coach Tom Coolen described as a “hard skating session” - their first time on ice since Friday’s defeat in Manchester.
Key forward Troy Lajuenesse is back from injury this weekend, but Teemu Pulkinnen will miss the games through injury.The return of Lajeunesse is a huge boost for the team as it looks to break a three-game winning streak which included two shut outs to Sheffield Steelers and Manchester Storm. Coolen will also be back behind the bench after serving a one-game ban for his ejection from the recent defeat at Nottingham.
“We want to get back to winning ways,” said Coolen. “We’ve come through some long road trips - so we want to be ready to go again this weekend. Our focus right now is the game against Clan before I worry about Guildford.”Flyers have been hit by the loss of early goals in several games this season, but Coolen is not too perturbed from what he has seen so far.
“We made a good start at Nottingham, got the lead and then gave up two goals. Just when we were ready to prepare for overtime, we turned the puck over and they scored. You have to look at how you lose. The team is working hard and as long as we keep doing that we will come out okay in games. We are competing and that’s the team I, and the fans, want to see in every game.”
"I expect it to be a challenging game against Glasgow. They have picked up a few new players since we met them last and have pushed top teams like Sheffield and Nottingham hard. We lost in Glasgow but won at Kirkcaldy the night after but they will be tough opposition. I have a lot of respect for Glasgow who are tough, they don't give up- I've not seen many teams in this league who do. We will need to bring our top game to the rink on Saturday.”
The return to the ice pad and in the stands rinkside will be difficult for many. It promises to be an emotional night, one fans and players will share together.
> Flyers have opened a book of condolence for Adam Johnson, and it is available to sign at the rink
> Fife Flyers Official Supporters Club will be staging a collection in memory of Adam Johnson on behalf of the team. All donations will be paid into Nottingham Panthers’ official GoFund me page.