Glasgow Clan’s announcement that Pete Russell was returning to the club could be the most significant signing of the summer.
But, with Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers reportedly looking for new coaches, Cardiff set to rebuild after missing out on honours and Belfast out to somehow at least repeat their achievements this year, Clan bringing back Russell can prove to be a shrewd move.
This is a team who, after an indifferent start, rose to third place and were dreaming of a European place before a late season slump saw them take fourth place, but miss out on the play-off finals despite a first leg lead.
Taking Clan to the last four of the Challenge Cup was an achievement not to be sniffed at either and that’s why there’s a very mood in the West of Scotland to the one around them a year ago.
It’s not just what’s been done on the ice that’s made Russell’s return a triumphant one for the Purple Army, but the way he connected with the fans, especially after mixed reaction that greeted his arrival that has made this decision one that has unified the support.
Having interviewed him on numerous occasions, Pete cares deeply about what he does. He’s always honest, he’ll protect and defend his players to the hilt and is a very popular figure all the way through the fabric of the club.
From the first interview at the Motorpoint Arena last year when he was announced on the day of the play-off final, he spoke of helping the club re-establish its identity and he’s done that in spades with the performances throughout the season.
Expectations will be higher because of what he achieved – a natural reaction – but after bringing back that identity, it’s time to consider the next phase and that’s pushing themselves to be a team that’s going to compete throughout the whole season.
That’s not to say this team didn’t. They did, but only through the large portion of the middle of the season when they got themselves away from eighth and ninth position, as they’d been in the first few weeks and certainly not in the final weeks when they slumped to their worst run.
With Russell soon to turn his attentions to his GB duties, recruitment will be well underway so don’t be surprised if there are signings already in the bag, waiting to be announced over the course of the summer while the coach is in Slovakia.
The next stage begins now for the Clan and they’ve got the summer off to the best possible start. Now it’s time for that feelgood factor to continue with the signings that are coming in and if they’re an upgrade on the team from 2018/19, it could be an exciting year ahead in Glasgow.