Manchester Storm head coach Ryan Finnerty says it’s been a ‘unique process’ as his team get ready to hit the ice for the first time in just over a year.
The tournament begins on Saturday with all the teams and the coaches working under different circumstances than normal in a Covid world,
And Finnerty spoke in particular about the difficulties he had in recruiting the team and how there was some unexpected help.
“It’s a unique process because we have players who have played 60 games this year and others who haven’t played 60 minutes all year, but it’s been fast paced,” he said.
“We hit the ice on Monday, which was an informal skate to get guys moving so it’s been a day by day process to build everything up.
“The buzz of just being back in hockey is taking over for a lot of guys. For the guys coming in, they’ve been helping out so a good experience so far.
“There were a lot of guys who wanted to come so we could only have the player. We couldn’t have the wife, the kids or the dogs and there were the guys who’ve had a long season and dealing with the difficulties they had at their respective clubs.
“It certainly wasn’t as easy as I think it would be. We all got quality guys and the Norwegian league folding has really helped us. It might have been more of a struggle getting players in Europe over here, which is what we wanted.”
Finnerty has enlisted good Elite League experience for his roster, with seasoned campaigners Matt Haywood, Craig Peacock, Josh Batch and Ben Davies all joining.
But he’s countered that with the additions of good young talent, such as Joe Hazeldine, Ben Solder and Harry Gulliver.
Finnerty is keen to give these players a chance at the Elite Series and believes being around the experienced players will be of huge benefit for them.
“We probably could have brought in an import D, but we’ve got Joe Hazeldine on a three-year contract and we want a good look at him,” the Storm coach added. “I want to give him quality ice time.
“Our forward lines are deep that can skate and move, plus a couple of young kids in Jacob Lutwyche and Harry Gulliver, who’s just joined us that we want to get in the line up.
“We want to be as competitive as possible and make sure the players are getting good ice time. This is an opportunity so it would be remiss of us not to get them out there.
“I would have loved, as a young 20 year old to be around the sort of players that are playing here and they’re going to learn so much, perhaps more in practice than in games.
“As a coach, it’s a great chance to get a good look at some of these players and see what they can do.”