Posing, goofing and bonding at Fife Flyers’ training day

Fife Flyers 80th anniversary logo centre ice (Pic:: Fife Photo Agency)
Fife Flyers 80th anniversary logo centre ice (Pic:: Fife Photo Agency)

‘‘Okay, give me your game face, now your sad face – and now your goalscoring celebrations ...’

Standing in front of a green backdrop for a photo-shoot, the players goofed and posed as the photographer put them through their paces.

Fife Flyers launch new partnership with Abertary University - pictured are players Evan Stoflet (left) and Joe Basabara, who will be studying at the university, with head coach Todd Dutiaume, and Andrea Cameron from Abertay

Fife Flyers launch new partnership with Abertary University - pictured are players Evan Stoflet (left) and Joe Basabara, who will be studying at the university, with head coach Todd Dutiaume, and Andrea Cameron from Abertay

Trying to give your best ‘unhappy face’ while all around you were cracking up with laughter wasn’t easy, but it was the perfect ice breaker for a team that had just met for the first time.

The venue, Abertay University, may have been akin to Flyers parking their tanks on Dundee Stars’ lawn, but it was chosen to formally announce the new partnership between the two parties.

The coaching staff added a media meet and greet day, while James Isaacs, who is studying at Abertay, helped pull the programme together.

And he made them work too with gym sessions designed to allow the students to assess their conditioning and deliver the sports science data that is now essential to all pro sports teams.

Fife Flyers new strip with Shane Owen and Dannick Gauthier  (Pic:  Fife Photo Agency)

Fife Flyers new strip with Shane Owen and Dannick Gauthier (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

The day included a team briefing, a chance to meet and chat with university staff - the partnership is much wider than simply places for new import players, Joe Basaraba and Evan Stoflet on the MSC International Human Resource Management course - be addressed by the team’s coaches and medical staff, and meet the media.

While relaxed in its feel, it was much more than just a meet and greet.

For Todd Dutiaume, head coach, it was a chance to take pre-season training camp up a level, and to pull together all the strands into one cohesive day.

While the returning faces were easy to identify, picking out the newcomers was a challenge - made all the more difficult as the group contained players who weren’t signed as they grabbed some food, broke into small groups and took their turns in front of the photogs.

Not all will figure on the roster, but training camp is their foot in the door

The ties which bind players across oceans and continents quickly became evident.

Brett Bulmer used to play on the same WHL team as Evan Bloodoff, while he also played against new defenceman Rick Pinkston, who, in turn, knew centreman Paul Crowder.

Joe Basabara had chatted to the coaches a year ago about possibly joining, while Evan Stoflet had previously worked with Jeff Hutchins, assistant coach.

As Dutiaume scanned the room pointing out the new faces, he picked out Chad Smith, son of David, Caly Robertson, son of Iain, and one Liam Morris, son of Captain Fantastic, Frank – guys he shared the dressing-room with and enjoyed many great hockey nights.

That moment, perhaps more than any other, underlined the feeling that this is a transformative year for Flyers.

Not all at training camp will make it on to the roster – there were guys unsigned, guys hoping for a try out – but the aim was to take last season’s conference-winning side and upgrade it.

In all discussions across the summer, they kept saying ‘wait and see’ - their eyes were always on the full picture even as it was revealed piece by piece.

Hutchy insisted the forwards were the strongest Fife have iced yet in the EIHL thanks to the arrival of guys like Paul Crowder and Brett Bulmer, and the retention of key players Chase Schaber, Carlo Finucci, Evan Bloodoff and Dannick Gauthier.

The return of Shane Owen gives them a match-winning netminder they know and trust.

The defence - an area the coaches wanted to improve – will feel the loss of Russ Moyer’s leadership, but it has experience and some wiggle room to add to it too.

And the arrival of new faces among the Brit pack have started talk among fans of possible four line hockey.

There is still work to be done and players yet to arrive - Finucci flew in this week, visa iossues delayed Owen, but he is in town, and Scott Aarssen is waiting on a work permit - but an extensive pre-season programme awaits.

The foundations laid over the coming two weekends of international competition will let the fans fully assess what lies ahead in this anniversary season.