Bari McKenzie says he’s relishing his role as one of the elder statesman in the Fife Flyers dressing room.
The experienced forward, in his second year at the club, says he keeps a watchful eye over the younger members of the squad at the Fife Ice Arena and is enjoying the responsibility of being there whenever help or advice is needed.
“I think I’m the second oldest in the team this season which I enjoy,” he says.
“I enjoy trying to help the younger guys come through. They come to me for advice. I speak to Jordan Buesa and Chad Smith a lot. Scott Jamieson too, though he’s hurt himself at the moment.
“If I see something that’s happened on the ice I’ll go and speak to them. At the end of the day the way I look at is that I’m very fortunate with the career I’ve had, though I’m not saying for a moment that I want to finish tomorrow!
“I want to play as long as I can but these guys are the future so if there’s a little thing I can do to help them, just tweak their game or something, I’m always there to speak to them.”
The 33-year-old was a hit with the Flyers faithful last year and says when manager Todd Dutiaume and assistant Jeff Hutchins asked him to return to Kirkcaldy for another season, he didn’t hesitate.
“It was a no brainer for me.
“Myself, Todd and Jeff had spoken at the end of last season. They told me where they were with their views about me coming back.
“I liked what they were saying but I wanted to come back anyway - I loved my time here last season.”
McKenzie is confident the team has strengthened and can go on and have a really good year.
“I think we’re progressing really well,” he said, “pre-season was tough because obviously we had the four boys away in Australia, but since they came back in you saw the intensity in practice went up straight away.
“I think week in, week out, we’re getting better, regardless of last week’s results against Glasgow and Dundee.
“We’re developing and our league standing is still good. If we keep progressing the way we are we’re going to have a successful season.
“Everyone was good in the locker room last year and we kept a lot of them on for this year.
“A lot of new guys have come and really adapted and just slipped into their roles.
“They’re really good guys, I knew a couple of them from working with them in the past.
“It’s a really nice group and it’s good being one of the only Scottish guys in there.
“Sometimes it’s tough, it’s all American football not normal football! But I like it, I enjoy it. I’ve done it for a while now.”
When asked about his own form McKenzie is honest enough to admit he hasn’t been at his very best so far this season.
“I’m not going to say it’s been great, I’m not going to say it’s been bad. There’s a lot of things I’m working on.
“It was hard over the summer, there’s not a great deal of ice in Scotland and I think a lot of the British players play catch up in pre-season.
“I’m not hiding the fact that I do need to work on certain things. I’ve not scored a point, I scored in pre-season. I wouldn’t say it’s playing on my mind but it’s nice to get that monkey off your back.
“But if I can do little things to help the team win, then I’m happy with that.”
Flyers seem set to depart the Challenge Cup after a disappointing series of results but McKenzie said there is plenty to be upbeat about.
“You have to look at the positives, the league is going well.
“We went out last weekend knowing what we had to do but unfortunately we didn’t do it.
I thought we played a really solid game in Glasgow but we got stung right at the end with the powerplay goal in the last minute which kind of knocked us a wee bit.
“We knew it was going to be busy back here on Sunday against Dundee but we didn’t start the way we wanted to. I think we came back into it in the latter stages.
“We had a system in place but for long parts of the game we didn’t do it. We came into it at the end but I think it was too little, too late.
“It is what it is. We’re obviously disappointed that we didn’t make it out of the group in the cup. I suppose the only positive you can take out of it is that we can concentrate on the league.”
And now McKenzie and his team mates are ready to get back to league play, starting with this weekend’s home double header against Sheffield and Nottingham.
“We’ll definitely be ready for it,” he says.
“We’ve already played Nottingham once at home this season and it was a really good game and we played really well.
“We haven’t come across Sheffield yet but I’ve seen bits of them on video and they look like a really skilled offensive team.
“We know it will be busy this weekend. Sheffield will bring a good following up. I think we just need to strip our game back to basics.
“We know what we need to do and we know what we can’t do and we can be successful again this weekend.”
He added: “Looking ahead, if you look back at last season, at Christmas time we were top of the league then we hit a lot of injuries and our form dipped a little bit, but if we can still be in the race come January/February time and show good consistency then I think we can do well this season.”