Fife Flyers set for Elite league take-off

By Colin WightBBC Scotland

It's Saturday night in Kirkcaldy and the crowds are queuing at the door to get into the ice rink.

The Fife Flyers are back in the big time and the fans want a piece of the action.

The big time is the ten-team UK Elite Ice Hockey League, formed in 2003.

For fans like Marion Watterston and her daughter Lesley they can't imagine being anywhere else.

"We're so excited, absolutely burstin'. We just can't wait," said Marion.

They've been fans since just after the Flyers won the British Championship at Wembley in 1985.

They're joined by hundreds of others, and by the fans of Dundee Stars, their opponents for a friendly before the season gets properly under way with a home game this Saturday against Coventry Blaze.

The Flyers are the oldest ice hockey team in the UK. They've been playing at the same Kirkcaldy rink since 1938, winning over 60 Scottish and British trophies.

Kirkcaldy has always been an ice hockey town.

They pride themselves on encouraging local players, not just relying on the imports - the experienced pros from the North American and other leagues - but some have come and stayed.

Coach Todd Dutiaume arrived here thirteen years ago. He's never left.

"I married a local girl", said Dutiame. "I think it's a great place to stay and the town has a lot to offer."

He's hoping others will think the same, but so far the Flyers have only four imports, including Todd.

He knows he needs to get more in. Teams are allowed ten players.

The Flyers lost 6-1 to Dundee Stars on Saturday night - the Stars have nine imports.

The other Scottish sides are the Braehead Clan and Edinburgh Capitals.

The EIHL is expensive and some sides have struggled, as each import needs an International Transfer Card or ITC at £800 a pop.

And that's before wages, cars and accommodation...

The Flyers have been in the Northern League for the past few years, playing below their tradition and status.

But, with the withdrawal for financial reasons of Newcastle Vipers, meant a place in the top tier opened up and the Flyers had to make a decision.

Some say it's a big financial risk and they'll need bigger crowds than the thousand or so who turned up on Saturday night.

But director Tom Muir believes they've pitched it about right.

Dutiaume was disappointed with Saturday's opener but knows the Stars have more imports and more Brits with league experience.

He knows the Flyers will learn, but with Coventry visiting this weekend, it'll have to happen fast.

Marion will be there come rain or shine: "I think it's very promising. It's gonna be a great season.

"I think once our imports come in we'll match any team in the League."

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