Fife Flyers coach Todd Dutiaume has issued a rallying cry to fans ahead of the start of the new ice hockey season this weekend.
After a three-week pre-season, Flyers have never been more prepared for their first competitive match as they welcome Edinburgh Capitals and their strong Russian contingent to Fife Ice Arena for a Challenge Cup fixture on Saturday night (7.15 p.m face-off).
Flyers attendances for pre-season exhibition games fell below previous years, averaging just over 1000, but Dutiaume is hopeful that fans will turn out in force for the start of the real action.
Particularly after an encouraging showing in last weekened’s Scottish Elite Cup at Murrayfield that saw Flyers defeat Dundee Stars 6-2 in Saturday’s semi-final, before losing 3-1 to Braehead Clan in a fiesty final on Sunday.
“We really want to kick off our home opener with a bang,” Dutiaume told the Press.
“Attendances in pre-season were low. That was recognised by everybody, but reflecting on it, while it was fantastic for the team to face quality opposition, it puts a financial strain on people as well.
“I hope that after the weekend’s performances, and the fact we’re building the type of team this community can be proud of and wants to cheer on, that we can kick off the new season with a victory against Edinburgh in front of a very robust crowd.”
After a disappointing season last year where Flyers finished as alsorans in the conference and were dominated in the head-to-heads against rivals Clan, Dutiaume and assistant coach Jeff Hutchins promised a tougher team for this campaign.
And after a fierce battle at Murrayfield last Sunday, where several on-ice fights took place, Dutiaume believes the recruitment process has delivered.
“I think it’s great that, as a group, we showed we can answer the bell,” he said.
“Everybody will take notice that this is not a team that can be intimidated into a loss or that will back down when the going gets tough.
“I know that lots is made of having an all out enforcer, and everybody wants to have thr biggest kid on the block, but in my view team toughness is a lot more important.
“If you stand together as a unit it’s contagious, then you’re not relying on one guy to go out and fight your battles.
“Everybody is more than capable of standing up for themselves. That’s something we are going to nurture and encourage over the coming weeks.
“On Sunday we absorbed everything Braehead threw at us, and even stepped up to the mark and started pushing the issue a bit, rather than just reacting.”
Flyers go into the weekend, which also features a trip to Dundee in the Challenge Cup on Sunday, two imports down with Shayne Stockton injured for at least another two weeks, and one slot in defence still to be filled.
“Believe me, we’ve been working at it, and there are still teams out there with slots to fill,” Dutiaume said.
“It’s just reflective of the North American market. Hopefully over the upcoming weeks the right guy for us will become available and we’re going to have to pounce on it.
“In the meantime, we’ve just got to get on with business as usual and we won’t use it as an excuse. We’ll just continue to plough ahead.”
Charlie Mosey has also signed an extended contract with the club following his three-week trial period.