Hutchins: Flyers ready to embrace ‘culture change’

Jeff Hutchins, assistant coach, Fife Flyers (Pic: Fife Flyers)
Jeff Hutchins, assistant coach, Fife Flyers (Pic: Fife Flyers)

Fife Flyers are prepared to embrace a culture change in a bid to become a more successful Elite League club.

That was the message from assistant coach Jeff Hutchins who revealed that an internal summer review has identified areas for improvement throughout the club, both on and off the ice.

As the UK’s oldest surviving ice hockey side, Fife are sometimes perceived as set in their ways, or behind the times, particularly in their engagement with fans, and club infrastructure.

However, Hutchins insists that, following a period of self-reflection, Flyers will be adopting a new strategy for what will be its seventh season in the EIHL.

“I think people will notice a change in the culture coming up,” Hutchins told the Press.

“We’ve identified some things that need to improve both on and off the ice, and we’re well on our way to putting things in place that will address those concerns.

“Throughout the organisation there are areas, from the commercial side to the fan entertainment side, that we’re working hard to improve.

“We also want to address players’ lifestyles off the ice, in terms of fitness, exercise, and centering around being together as a unit, to make sure we’re in shape and ready to play a full season.

“We’re not taking about a major overhaul or saying things will be night and day. It’s going to be subtle tweaks that will help us get where we want to be as an organisation.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve been doing things wrong, but we can do things better. As an organisation we’re trying to learn from our mistakes, take a step forward and move on.”

Hutchins admitted that, despite some notable results, last season’s on-ice product falls within the ‘can do better’ category and that he and head coach Todd Dutiaume are working hard to deliver the kind of team that supporters want.

“There are certain things we lacked last year, mainly around physicality and taking care of each other,” Hutchins said. “We want more of a team first mentality. There were points last year where personal agendas got in the way of team success.

“It’s okay to have personal agendas as long as it dovetails into the team agenda, but not doing what you need to do for the team first is not acceptable in our eyes.

“It’s something we’re really trying to instil this year. Guys like Russ Moyer, who blocks shots at 35-years-old and who puts the team first rather than his personal success or health is what we look for.

“We also need a bigger mix of players in terms of youth and experience. We were a little bit older last year and it caught up with us as the season went on.

“When you have experienced guys a lot of them are reluctant to take roles in the team and that goes back to putting the team first.”

Following some key departures, Hutchins views the recent re-signings of Shayne Stockton and Russ Moyer as a strong start to the 2017-18 recruitment process, and revealed the club is in talks with just one more player from last season’s roster.

Flyers are also closing on a two fresh targets, and with the NHL draft taking place last weekend, Hutchins believes more players will now become available.

“Guys are holding out looking for the best possible league they can play in Europe, and also looking for American league deals,” he said.

“The draft is a milestone day for a lot of players because you find out what movements are happening in the NHL, which dictates whats happening in AHL, which dictates what’s happening in ECHL.

“It trickles all the way down, and guys will soon start making decisions. Players get itchy, and don’t want to be on the outside looking in without a job when it gets to squeaky bum time. I suspect it won’t be a problem for us to have a full roster by opening night.”