Fife Flyers lose promising young player to Sheffield

Reece Cochrane  (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Reece Cochrane (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

Promising young defenceman Reece Cochrane has left Fife Flyers to play down south next season.

The GB junior internationalist has signed with Sheffield Steeldogs in the NIHL.

Cochrane made his senior breakthrough with Flyers last season, but the move south will almost certainly more mean more ice time for a player Steeldogs billed as “one of the most promising young talents in the country” – a local talent many fans wanted to see nurtured and developed in Kirkcaldy.

Flyers now have at least two berths to fill in the home-based ranks. The club has already lost Caley Robertson, another of last season’s promising young skaters, to MK Lightning.

The moves south underline the challenge young players face making the step up from junior ranks to the Elite League – a gap the coaches have insisted is significant and has to be managed.

The debate over ice time ran across last season, particularly when Flyers were short benched through major injuries, but still held back their young Brits.

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In February, Jeff Hutchins, assistant coach, addressed fans’ criticisms , stating: “It’s a process, and the physical and off-ice stuff is massive for those guys. If you want to play at this level you need to have the bodies of guys at this level, and they don’t have that yet.

“They also have to think about the game. It’s a lot more than just putting your skates on and going out there.

“It’s a process and it’s not going to be a one-year thing. You won’t wake up one morning and be an Elite League player.

“It’s not the 80s where a 17-year-old playing against men was the same skill level. It’s just not.”
And he added: “The worst thing you can do at 17 is burn a guy out, let him make a bunch of mistakes, lose the love of the game, and just quit. It’s a fine balance.”

“The problem in a smaller hockey town like this is the outside influences on a player,” he said.

“When everyone is saying they should in the line-up, it’s hard to filter that out, and you start believing it.

“Instead of trusting your coaches who have a plan for you, and have gone through that plan for you, you start listening to people that don’t have a plan for you, and are just about the here and now.

Cochrane’s departure will almost certainly re-ignite that debate over ice time and the development of young players, but the road south is one that has been taken by many players from Fife over the decades.

The 18-year blue-liner has already made his mark at Scottish and GB level, and has donned a national journey alongside Sheffield players such as Liam Kirk, Alex Graham, Kieron Brown and Jordan Griffin.

On Steeldogs’ website, Ali Cree explained, co-owner, explained: “Giving young players a chance to develop has always been central to our ambitions with the Steeldogs and whilst we love seeing local talent, we have always been open to creating opportunities to players from across the country.

“Reece was someone we’d been aware of for a while and we found his attitude and ambitions matched well with ours. He’s clearly got great ability and his repeated selections for Scotland plus representing GB three times in the past 18 months, show he’s got huge potential.

“We’d love it if Reece were still a Dog in five years time but we would be equally happy if we can help him secure an Elite League place eventually. We’ve seen the likes of Liam Kirk and Duncan Speirs getting those moves in recent years, so with hard work and application, it’s possible for Reece too.”

Team coach, Ben Morgan, said he saw Cochrane as “an aggressive D man who plays hard and skates extremely well” and who “doesn’t mind getting into the gritty areas,”

He added: “He is still developing his game, his play and his style. He has fantastic promise having played for both GB under 18s and under 20s this year. “