INTERVIEW: Ian Foster

Tom King in action on his Dragons debut

Deeside Dragons have only been back a few short months, but they’re already making an impact. After a 16 year absence, they’ve returned with a bang and are favourites for promotion to NIHL1 North.

After taking maximum points from their first two games against Blackburn Eagles & Hull Stingrays, Coast to Coast met up with General Manager Ian Foster to find out more about the Dragons:

C2C – How did the change from Flintshire Freeze to Deeside Dragons come about?

IF – We decided we needed a fresh start after 4 or 5 stale seasons as the Freeze. It was felt we could build a stronger team if we did that and maybe even get local support interested in ice hockey again, after seeing a dip in numbers attending our games over the past few seasons. The team is run by the Council/Rink and they thought it was a great idea to bring back the Dragons brand. I ran it by our committee and after some initial doubts they agreed we should go for it.

C2C – You’ve brought in a lot of players over the summer – when did you start making your plans for this?

IF – Our team building started before the 2011/12 season finished. I’d already been approached by a couple of guys regarding the possibility of joining Freeze. We knew Karl Creamer wouldn’t be returning as Coach and I’d already spoken to Steve Fellows about taking over. We’ve always skated throughout the off-season and are regularly joined by guys from other teams. We had a number of players who were interested in joining the Dragons – from Trafford, Telford and Blackburn – but some weren’t too keen on the travel, some were just after money and others had issues regarding playing in Division 2. We were mainly interested in the lads who’d moved away from Deeside in the first place – Brian Worrall, Aaron Davies, Tom King and of course Ric Hughes. We felt it was important for us not to make too much of a drastic change and, as we only had a small squad anyway, fill it with the guys we wanted.

C2C – It’s been rumoured things didn’t go too smoothly between yourselves and the Hawks when they found out players were moving on. What can you tell us about this?

IF – Ric, Tom, Aaron & Brian were all on board from early in the summer, but due to issues regarding some old playing and training kit, we were made to go back and forth until they were released. Aaron’s transfer took even longer as a shirt was missing and although he didn’t have it, his transfer was refused until the shirt was paid for. This disappointed me as it’s the second time the Hawks had messed Deeside around regarding money. When Gary Dixon wanted to move back here last year, they refused to release him unless we paid back his registration fee in full – this was despite the fact we’d charged them less than half the year before, when he moved there midway through the season.

C2C – Was there anyone else you’d like to have brought in?

IF – My only real disappointment was we couldn’t convince Chris Jones to return. We spoke to him throughout the summer, but he’d made up his mind to return to Telford Titans. Chris was a star player in the second half of the season who turned their season around and as a local lad I’d hoped he’d come back – but it wasn’t to be.

C2C – The signing of Shaun Kippin from Whitley Warriors raised a lot of eyebrows in NIHL North, how did he end up with the Dragons?

IF – Our roster was pretty much full when we heard Shaun was possibly moving to Warrington. I got in touch and also passed on his number to Steve. We spoke a few times and when we found out he’d more or less decided to move down, we immediately invited him to Deeside for the weekend with his partner. We put him up in an hotel, arranged for him to have a look at the facilities we had on offer and also the local area. We also put on an extra session for him to jump on the ice with the lads and have a skate. We had a chat and the deal was made for him to come on the basis that he did move to the area. I was delighted when we found out it was happening. He’s not trained with the guys yet and won’t until next week, but he travelled down last weekend to play in our opening fixtures. It’s not just good to have him as a player, but he’s also a top lad and Steve and I are made up to have him.

C2C – The re-branding seems to have worked on the ice, how has it impacted off the ice?

IF – As you say, we look like we’ve put together a strong team, but only time will tell if the results bear that out. The name change has proved to be a positive move when it comes to sponsorship, as we’ve doubled our previous years’ totals as well as major success in gaining shirt sponsors. Within eight days we’d achieved sponsors for 52 of our 56 possible shirts, which surpasses the amount sponsored in any other season by some margin. We even had an interesting request to sponsor Shaun’s shirt by a group calling themselves ‘The Real Hawks Supporters Club’ – read into that what you will! I believe Blackburn were desperate to sign him so maybe that’s the reason, but I’m happy he chose us over the Hawks. Ric, Aaron and Brian’s shirts were also sponsored by Hawks fans, but we appreciate all the support we get, wherever it comes from.

(Image permission: PSD-Images)

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