After being controversially suspended for Fife Flyers’ play-off quarter-final, it was fitting that Brett Bulmer got his chance to step onto the ice on Saturday.
The rapturous cheers that greeted his announcement as the Fife Free Press Mirror of Merit winner was a reflection of the contribution he made in getting the team there.
The trophy, awarded by the newspaper at the end of every season, is engraved with the names of players who were at the heart of the team dating back to the 1950s.
The list also hangs on the dressing room wall – a measure of respect for the award – as well as a reminder to every player who walks through the door of the club’s history and tradition.
The Mirror of Merit legends include current head coach Todd Dutiaume, as well as Mark Morrison, Vincent Lukac, Dave Stoyanovich, Jimmy Spence, Rick Fera and local guys such as Iain Robertson.
Based on a point-scoring system throughout the season, it is a true reflection on the most consistent performers, and few will argue that Bulmer made his mark in the club’s 80th anniversary season.
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“When I first came in here I saw the big wall in the room, and saw the coach’s name on there,” Bulmer told the Press.
“The history of this team goes back a long way, and to know I’m going to be part of that is pretty special.
“It’s nice when hard work can get rewarded like that, and I give my team mates a lot of credit for it.”
Bulmer lived up to his ‘Hollywood’ nickname from his time in Florida with a number of showreel goals, including the winner of the club’s goal of the season, scoring in Belfast while sliding on his stomach.
He finished as the team’s top points scorer with 57 points in 57 games, one ahead of Paul Crowder, and 19th in the overall EIHL standings.
“At the very start myself and Crowds were leading the scoring race,” he said.
“So I thought I had a good start then midway through we went through injuries and it was tough every night to make sure you were on your ‘A’ game.
“Every day was a new challenge but I tried to bring the best attitude and lead the team every night.
“In the second half of season – once I got that play-off mode in me – it just took over and every night coming to the rink good things were happening because I was in that mindset.
“It’s been a long year and it will take a lot of days to reflect on all the good times and bad times.
“It was a great group of guys who were easy to be around all year, and the coaching staff helped me a lot, and gave me lots of opportunities.
“It was a great year in my development.
“I might be getting older every year but I feel I can still get better.”
Bulmer’s season did not finish the way he hoped with a DOPS suspension following a kneeing incident in the final game of the season robbing him of the chance to feature in the play-offs.
“There were lots of questionable things that happened with the league this year but I’m not going to go there,” he said. “I felt terrible just because I wanted to help the guys on the ice.
“I didnt try to get suspended, I was just playing hard, and it was just bad luck that the incident happened.
“I was very shocked when the decision came out and I felt bad for my team mates.”
Bulmer says he will now take time before deciding on his next career move. Whether that is a return to Fife or elsewhere remains to be seen.
“I’m going to take some time, reflect, and I’m not going to make any decisions yet,” he said. “I loved my time here, and I wouldn’t say a bad word about it.
“If it comes to me coming back – I really don’t know. It’s out of my hands right now, but I’m not going to go out on a bad note.
“I’ll hold my head high, knowing what we accomplished this year.
“I think the coaching staff are proud of us at the end of the day after what we went through.
“If you look at the injuries, I don’t think any team in this league came close to what we had to go through.
“It’s testament to everyone for staying strong and making the play-offs.”