Fife Flyers: From PR to GM it’s time to open the door

Pic: Fife Free Press
Pic: Fife Free Press

Dundee Stars are running a smashing daily countdown to the new ice hockey season.

They’re linking each day to a player or memorable moment – a simple, but effective way of keeping the fans interested and engaged for the 2019-20 season.

Pic: Jillian McFarlane

Pic: Jillian McFarlane

We’re about six weeks – around 40-odd days – away from the puck drop.

Fife Flyers have eight signed players and appear to have gone so far off the radar even a search and rescue team might struggle to track them down.

One announcement since June 20 and it turned into a car crash over the weekend as fans wondered how the club got the tone, and timing, of a major re-signing so wretchedly wrong.

But, we can take it as read there will be a team to hit the ice come face-off.

There will be new players and probably a returnee or two more. Sponsors are signed and ready to be announced.

The mechanics of managing and running a team continue, and the debacle of Gauthier’s announcement will be forgotten before the first buzzer has sounded.

But, with 40-odd days to go, the fans are unclear what type of team they are going to see hit the ice, and that sense of detatchment ought to be worrying for a club that is heavily reliant on its gate money.

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If social media is a temperature check on the mood in the stands, then there are a lot of Fife fans more than a bit fed up with hearing nothing.

In 2019, communication isn’t issuing a templated press release every so often, and then logging back off.

It is about constant engagement on each platform from print to Pinterest, from radio to social media.

That takes resource, but it also requires a clear strategy which has to come from the top.

Done well, PR – in all its forms – can also be fun and rewarding. Get the tone and content right and you’ll see the likes and shares stack higher than Russell Monteith’s powerplay record. Suddenly, your team becomes the talk of the town.

Flyers lack of PR resource has long been recognised as an issue internally, but the time has come for change.

Fans want to be kept informed, updated, and above all, feel valued.

Right now, they want to know who replaces Evan Bloodoff as a key power forward, who guards the net in place of Shane Owen, and who is the defensive rock around which the entire blue line is built.

And they are eager to start digging into the stats of the new signings to fully assess the roster’s strengths.

There is no doubt the coaching staff are further down the recruitment road than the club has divulged thus far – and they certainly want that signing news out there.

Brett Bulmer’s signing last summer was a perfect example.

Signed but unannounced, all interviews on how the team was shaping up had to dance around the subject until it reached the top of the in-tray for sign off. You could sense the coaches’ frustration.

Flyers continue to use a model developed during the BNL days, but what worked in 1997 is obselete in 2019.

Ice hockey is a year-round business, and communication is a key part of that mix.

The club has been stewarded by Tom Muir and Jack Wishart for 23 years – a remarkable commitment, and one which extends far beyond simply paying the bills.

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They have always put the interests of the club first – regardless of trends or pressures from others – and will do so again this coming season.

And while they may not ‘do’ social media, be in no doubt they will be aware of what has been said, and where the heat is coming from.

So, could the weekend chaos also be a catalyst for change?

The strides made off-ice – and there have been many – since 2012 haven’t been trumpeted, and minimal off-ice resources means that crucial roles, such as PR and marketing, have been overlooked.

It’s clear from the weekend that Flyers need a GM; one person with complete autonomy to run everything off ice and be the link between the dressing-room and the boardroom.

They also need to be visible rinkside during the week, and on match nights as the figurehead of the club. This isn’t a role that can be dialled in from home.

And they need a mandate to shake things up.

The last person tasked with that role was Bob Korol when he was appointed rink manager and told to sweep out the old. That was a tough gig. His ‘reward’ was abusive grafitti sprayed along the front of the rink.

The difference is any GM would be pushing against an open door. They will find a network of people more than willing to commit energy, time, ideas and, perhaps, even finance to light a fire under this club.

People care about Flyers. The team is their passion and their pride. Never under-estimate who sits in the stands on match nights, and the skills they can bring to the table.

And there’s one clear unifying factor. They all want the best for their team.

It’s time to open the door to them and let them in.