Play-offs: Braehead Clan and Fife Flyers lead Scottish boom

By Craig AndersonBBC Scotland
Edinburgh beat west coast rivals Braehead at the weekend

When Braehead Clan and Fife Flyers travel to Nottingham for this weekend's end of season play-offs, it will end a campaign where the sport of ice hockey has taken massive strides in Scotland.

The Clan and the Flyers meet Belfast Giants and Sheffield Steelers in their respective semi finals.

Elite League success as well as the two World Championships held in Dumfries has made it a bumper season for Scottish fans.

Dundee Stars won the Gardiner Conference, but were denied their place in Nottingham by the Flyers, who escaped play-off oblivion by qualifying on the last day.

Then you have Braehead, who finished in the top half of the table and defeated Nottingham Panthers, winners of the last three play-off finals, to reach the last four.

All four Scottish teams posted increased average attendances for the season, even bottom of the table Edinburgh Capitals, despite a disappointing campaign.

As the season approached this exciting finale, Braehead, Dundee and Fife were posting sell out crowds.

And with droves of Scots heading to "Scottingham", the future is looking bright for the sport.

Coach's view - Fife Flyers Todd Dutiaume

"When the league created the Conference system, they got it right and for me, that's where the teams are getting it right.

"This season we had 14 points separating the sides in second and ninth and there were changes in the standings after every match.

"It does drum up interest, rather than the regular three or four that blow everyone out of the water. That can get boring at times.

"I definitely think the league is on the right track and it would be great for the play-off trophy to come to Scotland at the end of the weekend. But I want it to be us rather than Braehead."

Player's view - Braehead Clan's Matt Haywood

"The interest seems to have really taken off and you have to credit those working behind the scenes for the job they've done in attracting new fans.

"The fans also deserve credit and at first there were a lot of fans who supported Ayr Eagles when they were going and they've embraced this club as well.

"They started bringing all their friends and word of mouth has spread to what we've seen in the last couple of weeks where Braehead Arena has been sold out.

"Hopefully it's going to be good for the future of the sport and having the amount of fans travelling down for the play-offs makes it exciting as a player."

Former player's view - Les Millie (ex-Fife Flyer)

"I'm very proud of the boys on what they've achieved and they've really turned the corner so it's an exciting time for the sport right now.

"In terms of Fife, they've given local guys ice time and that generates a lot of interest from the local community.

"It also gives the kids playing junior a hope that one day they can play for the Flyers and continue the identity the club has maintained for a number of years.

"From a local point of view, that can attract fans through the door as well and Fife reaching the play-offs will have Kirkcaldy buzzing right now."

Fans' point of view - Braehead Clan follower Brian McJannet

"The level of ice hockey is improving year on year and lots of folk that followed it during the Ayr Eagles era were spoiled with the talent there was at that time.

"The players now are getting better and that shows that the bottom end teams are competing with the so-called big teams.

"Having Braehead and Fife in the play-off weekend is a great thing and you can't argue with the crowds that have turned out to help sell out these venues.

"As a football fan, the game is stagnating and there's boredom now. Plus the cost has people looking at alternatives and ice hockey is affordable, plus offers something for everyone."

Saturday's play-off semi-finals:

Belfast Giants vs Fife Flyers (13:00 BST)

Braehead Clan vs Sheffield Steelers (17:00 BST)