When ice hockey players sign off for the summer with tears in their eyes you know it has been a special season.
Fife Flyers netminder Andy Iles spoke passionately about his pride at playing for the club, the coaches and the guys he called his brothers following Saturday’s semi-final defeat to Cardiff Devils.
The next day, after the 3rd/4th play-off match against Nottingham Panthers, emotions were high as he stepped off the ice pad with his cap pulled down, pausing for a brief moment before making the walk back to the dressing-room, as the curtain came down on his season.
“Looking round the locker room, disappointment aside, I feel so proud to part of this team and to represent this organisation, this club and play for my brothers,” Iles said.
“We’ve laid it on the line so many times, and had so many smiles together.
“This season has been a step in the right direction and I think we’re only going up from here.
“We took a lot of pride in being the top team in Scotland this year, and now it’s about making sure we’re one of the top teams in this league every single year.”
Iles, one of the stand-out performers this season, said Flyers weren’t just delighted to be at the finals - they expected to be there.
“We were never a seventh placed team,” he said.
“We were making a run for the league at one point.
“It was exciting getting here because it meant we got to play two more games together as a team.
“You can see the spirit in the room.
“Maybe our CVs don’t stack up against others, but we gelled, and that is a credit to the players, the coaches and the club.
“For people for so many different backgrounds to come together … it was incredibly special.
“People do not appreciate the talent and cohesion we have on this team.
“We expected to win tonight. We expected to win the championship.
“Our time is done, but we left it all out there.
“This has been a very special year for this organisation and we have a lot to be proud of.”
Iles professionalism, both on and off the ice, has been a key part of the team’s success and fans would love to see the popular goalie return for another season.
The 26-year-old won’t be short on offers but he will take stock over the summer before deciding on his next career move.
“It’s not about next year right now it’s about this group of guys and this experience that we’ve had,” Iles said.
“I’m just going to take time to enjoy my team mates and the special bonds we’ve built this year.
“My wife and I have loved every single minute of our time in Fife and I’m so thankful to the ownership and the coaches for giving us the opportunity to be here and be part of this team.
“I’ve loved playing with these guys and it’s so disappointing not to bring home the play-off trophy, but the silver lining is that this was a pretty special year and we’ve done things that this organastion has never done before.
“I’ve always been a person likes to take it one day at a time.
“I’ll sit down with my wife, we’ll reflect and I’m sure the organisation will figure out the direction it wants to go in too, but I couldn’t be any more positive about my experience here.”