Guildford Flames head coach Paul Dixon reckons excitement for the new season has been at levels not seen before.
The first competitive action of a regular season will begin for the first time in 18 months on Saturday when Flames host Coventry Blaze at the Spectrum as part of a Challenge Cup double header with Danny Stewart’s side.
But Dixon admits his team has a much different look to perhaps the one he was intending as he began the process of recruiting.
“It’s been a long coming and you forget how it feels to be back and the excitement you have pre-season and it’s good to be back at it,” he said.
🗣Press Conference: Paul Dixon | #EIHL
Hear what the @flamesicehockey Head Coach had to say ahead of 2021/22.
— Premier Sports Elite League | #EIHL (@officialEIHL) September 14, 2021
“There’s huge excitement building for this season, probably more so that ever before. We’re seeing attendances for the pre-season games like we’ve never seen them, which shows how excited every one is.
“As clubs, we’ve all been in the same boat over the last 18 months and where you would usually have that three-month down time, do your recruitment and off you go again, the wheels stopped turning because of Covid.
“It was like starting from new so it was hard from that point of view, but everyone’s put a lot of hours and here we are again.
“We try to keep a core of players here every year and usually we can have about 10, but this year, only four have agreed to return – the lowest we’ve ever had.
“Some have retired, some have moved on and recruitment was difficult this time. Even bringing in guys from college, some of whom haven’t played was tricky. Some of those players have retired and got a job somewhere so numbers were lower across the board.”
As attention turns to the weekend’s double header, where both teams will be first out the blocks in terms of competitive games, Dixon isn’t taking anything for granted when it comes to the Blaze.
“We know from our experience Coventry have a good, competitive team from previous games against them.” he added. It’ll be a tough weekend, but nervous as you look to see where we are as a new team.
“We’ve had some good training in the build up and there’s great excitement around the place at the minute.”