THE new boss of Braehead Paisley Pirates is aiming to turn the team into a major force in Scottish ice hockey.
After a turbulent season just finished – one which saw Scott Neil take over at the helm of the Pirates ship halfway through – he is now working hard putting in place a team on and off the ice that will bring success next season.
He has seen Pirates having to contend with lack of ice time for practice, injuries to important players and suspensions in the latter stages of the season that have caused massive team selection headaches.
Neil - who is also owner of the Elite League outfit, Edinburgh Capitals – is looking at all aspects of how the club is run from the team itself and the Pirates role in the community to the backroom staff needed to bring in vital sponsorship and create an exciting game-night experience for fans.
He has pledged to give Pirates’ coach, Dino Bauba. new imports and top-class British players to mould a team that will challenge for honours next season.
And he has backed Bauba to be the man to bring the glory days back to the Pirates.
In an exclusive interview with the Paisley Daily Express Neil said: “The aim is to turn the Braehead Paisley Pirates into a real competitive force next season.
“The team will need to retain and add new players to blend a team, which has got potential to win championships.
“I have talked to Dino about the possibility of taking just a coaching role next season and we will be making a decision on that shortly. It has been a difficult first season for Dino as a coach, but with regular practice time and games next year I am confident he can develop into a good coach.
“Good coaches need time to mature and learn from their own mistakes and with all the frustrations and uncertainties of last season, it would be unfair to judge Dino on the team performances.
“I do expect performances to improve greatly next season however and we both agree the team has the potential to be a major force in Scottish ice hockey.
“The players have also shown great character in a season where they have coped with inconsistent training and game times and we hope to provide a platform where these players can develop their skills to fulfil their potential as top quality hockey players.
“It was a difficult year but it is time to look forward and build positively for the next season.”
Neil continued: “There will be a close working relationship between Edinburgh Capitals and the Braehead Paisley Pirates both on and off the ice. This relationship will involve all aspects of the club such as sponsorship, player recruitment, merchandising and joint ticketing opportunities.
“The team will be looking to add some British talent and a couple of imports. We will be looking for guys of the calibre of the likes of Adrian Saul and Steve Kaye who played in Edinburgh a number of years ago after leaving University. They were fast, skilful, young exciting players who were ideally suited to the game in the UK.
“I have been impressed by the commitment and organisation of the volunteers in Paisley and over the next month, I intend to put together personnel both on and off the ice that will help the Pirates deliver a positive long-term future for the team and the sport. These guys are the lifeblood of the club and if we can get it right on the ice it will provide the positive feedback that all their hard work deserves.
“The Pirates will be looking to take on office space at Braehead and develop the commercial opportunities available and work towards providing community projects that will promote the sport, the players and provide positive experiences and challenges for young local kids.”
Neil is committed to bringing young players through the ranks and giving them the chance to play at the highest level they can achieve.
He said: “I want to see more kids playing the game and we will work with the junior development to help create a positive structure for the club.
“We are looking to develop a schools project similar to the success of the one in Edinburgh which offers seminars on healthy lifestyles and the opportunity to play 'street hockey'. This project is developing quickly in Edinburgh and the players have visited nearly 60 schools, made over 100 visits and interacted with over 4000 kids this season and we want to replicate this project in the Renfrewshire area.”
Neil added: “I have found things very positive in Braehead and Renfrewshire Council have been very supportive and helpful in providing information and assistance in a number of areas.
“The arena is without doubt the best in Scotland and it deserves one of the best teams.
“The Braehead Paisley Pirates will be a formidable opponent next season.”