Paisley Pirates head coach Ian Turley admits the club were facing the prospect of going out of business earlier this year, but now the future couldn’t be brighter.
The ownership situation with Braehead Arena, as a result of Intu’s liquidation, not only threatened Glasgow Clan, but SNL side Pirates who also play out of the Glasgow rink.
But Turley believes Paisley are in the best place they’ve been in a long time as they look forward to finally celebrating their 75th year.
“When we heard about the situation at Braehead, it didn’t phase us at first,” Turley said. “We knew there was probably something coming along and we would move on.
“It took a turn when it seemed like there was nothing happening and it became clear the rink was in jeopardy of closing permanently.
“It would have been sadness for everyone and everything, but especially for what it means to my family directly because it was potentially the end.
“With anything in life, you always want to walk away on your terms, but the situation with the ice rink, it was out of our hands.
“We looked at the option of moving elsewhere, but it wasn’t viable. In a pre-Covid world, it maybe would have been until a solution was found.
“As things went on with the arena and the lack of progress at the time, it meant we had to face the fact that it might have been the end for us.
“It’s definitely great to have something to aim for and there’s a lot of things going on in the background and it’s an exciting time for us.
“Given where we’ve come from, we’re probably in the best place we’ve been for 10 years.
“It’s been 75 years of the club and ideally, it would have been all singing and all dancing and in another time, there would have been a lot more going on.
WATCH: Paisley Pirates’ last game before lockdown was a play-off tie with Dundee Comets, which didn’t play to a finish
“It’s tough to plan things at the moment and we’re not quite out of things with Covid.
“It’s massive for us and for some of us who are involved, it probably feel like 75 years at times, but it’s a huge year and it further cements the history of the club.”
Paisley Pirates are very much a stable name in the history of the sport in the UK over the years and like everyone else, had to manage the effects the coronavirus pandemic inflicted upon the planet.
Turley looked back on the weekend back in March 2020 when everything stopped as he recalled what he called a “strange” play-off game that he admits shouldn’t have taken place.
“When the Elite League announced they were stopping on the Friday, we played on the Saturday up at Dundee Comets in the play-offs,” he added.
“It was a strange game because everyone had the feeling that it wouldn’t be seen to the end. Effectively, everything stopped after that.
“We’d originally planned to return last year, but that was put on the back burner then the situation with Braehead Arena started to rear its head.
“That last game in Dundee, it became a nothing game. Comets won the game, but we had to take it back to our rink. At that time, nobody realised the world would end up the way it did.
“Knowing the top professional league had stopped at that time, there was a sense of inevitability that you would as well. Looking back, that game should never have gone ahead.”
Pirates had announced a partnership with Glasgow Clan last year, but the year away hasn’t quite seen any plans for that come into fruition.
However Turley was enthused when he spoke about the new partnership they’ve developed with junior ice hockey side, Lanarkshire Lightning, who play out of The Time Capsule rink in Coatbridge, near Motherwell.
He also revealed that working relationship has also yielded its first product, with 17-year-old Ollie King joining the Pirates for the new season.
“We’ve had a partnership with Lightning for a while now and it’s always been more of an informal exchange,” Turley said. “We get on really well and they have some really good people involved there who are friends of mine.
“Over the years, it’s strengthened and we agreed to do something more official as we went on. We don’t have a junior development programme as such so tying in with them, it was something Adam Walker, my co-coach, and I were keen to set up.
“They have a great structure there and we’ve just signed one of the kids who have come through their system. Ollie’s signing is a really big thing for us and we want to make a big deal of it.
“I think by signing him, it shows the direction we’re now going in as a club. It’s a cliche, but we’re working on a few things where there’s a gap in the West of Scotland that needs to be bridged.
“It’s a sleeping giant, where the arena is and there’s a massive opportunity there. We’re pleased in the direction its going in and we want to create an environment for kids to come through.”
While the Pirates still wait to hear what their fixtures will be in the SNL next season, there’s no doubting the excitement in Turley as we spoke and you get the sense he can’t wait for the schedule to come out.
In the meantime, it’s all about preparation and he admitted that after so long, a recent return to the ice reinvigorated his love for the game and made him realise how much he had missed ice hockey.
“I’m excited for this season and it feels like we’re starting again,” he said. “How it’ll be, I don’t know with certain restrictions still in place and we don’t know how that will impact teams on certain nights.
“We’re back up and running and we’re super excited to be back in business.
“Being away for so long, as we have, you devote your time to other things and I’ve got a young family so I was spending more time with them, which was great.
“I was involved with GB Under 16s and it wasn’t until I stepped on to the ice that it hit me that I’d missed it so much, being away from it.
“It was a bit like out of sight, out of mind and in that moment, it finally felt like we were back. I’ll be honest, it felt really good.”