Ice Hockey: No panic at Capitals

SCOTT NEIL has told Edinburgh Capitals' success-hungry ice hockey fans: "I'm in charge."

Neil has already started planning for next season following the departure of Elite League coach of the year Doug Christiansen – and the former Murrayfield Racers and Sheffield Steelers forward revealed that five or six inquiries had already been made from men keen to take over from the American.

Neil told an audience of around 100 fans in the Murrayfield rink's Riversdale suite: "I expected until Friday (last week) that we would be bringing Doug here as our coach for next season. That's not the way things have turned out.

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"Doug did a great job but he is going to Belfast Giants. He had a lot of good qualities. It has taken a period of time for Doug to progress and he will progress further with Belfast Giants.

"However, there is no panic about recruitment. I will sit down and assess the situation and there are guys out there who can do the job. Somebody in North America or Europe will be out there and we're looking for somebody who is ambitious and, hopefully, with the communication skills Doug had.

"We're also looking for somebody who can make more of an on-ice impact than Doug.

"We are a club with a limited budget and I really think we need a player/coach."

In the meantime, Neil has re-signed defenceman Kyle Horne and will recruit players for the new season which is set to start in October until he selects the right man for the coaching job.

Neil is looking forward to the prospect of a local rivalry with the new league franchise Braehead Clan and he hopes that Dundee Stars can clinch a deal to come into the league.

What's more, Neil would like Fife Flyers to join the Elite League, adding: "I'd hate to see them left out."

Neil said Capitals are likely to play a schedule involving three home and three away games against rivals in the regular league season. The two-week play-offs would come after that and Capitals hope to make the final four at Nottingham.

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He remains upbeat despite the advent of the Braehead-based side who are already increasing the hype in the West of Scotland. "I can only think that the Clan will be a positive long-term benefit.

"It is a fantastic arena and it will be well supported by the guys behind it. They may be the glamour club but Scottish ice hockey will benefit.

"Braehead and Dundee (if they are accepted) will mean more ice hockey fans talking about the sport in Scotland. Local rivalry will help. There will be more buzz but Dundee will find it is not easy competing about the big clubs."

Christiansen led Capitals to their best season in recent times, but finding new finance for the club has remained tricky. Neil is seeking new sponsorship for next season and is talking to property developers to provide accommodation for playing staff. He's also looking at car companies to become involved with the team to provide transport. He plans more shopping centre promotions and aims to build on last year when the club targeted university students in the city.

However, he appealed for fans to approach their employers for backing and said: "The best promotional vehicle for ice hockey is word of mouth. Ice hockey is a good night out and I would appeal to the fans to help us find new sponsors."

He also revealed that clubs in the league were considering generating extra revenue by introducing a tiered seating plan. "We will recruit the best players we can for the club. The big clubs will look to sign players and will spend a lot of money on guys.

"There will be quality guys out there in July, August and September. I have been in hockey a long time and receive emails from agents. I have a lot of experience and will sign the players I think will do a job.

"If somebody comes across as being the right guy then I will sign them. I did that in the first season that Doug was here.

"I'm not concerned about delivering a quality team.

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There is absolutely no reason to panic, there are months and months to go. I have an understanding about when to strike for players."