By Kris Smith
Dundee’s top-level ice hockey team are well underway in their planning for the new season and coach Pacha is still feeling the buzz around the city.
With Stars’ first preseason fixture set to be played on September 1, the season is just two months away. General manager and head coach, Omar Pacha, shared his approach for the campaign, he said: “I think it is going to be an exciting season, from all the work we have done since last year, building the club and getting the exposure around the city of Dundee.
“There are still some signings to go but its exciting times and I think it is going well.”
There are currently ten players on the Dundee roster and that is roughly half of the team coach Pacha is building. Although there are still quite a few signings to be made, the Canadian insists that it is all about patience.
Omar added: “I am happy with where we are, I think we have upgraded in certain positions and we are still actively searching.
“I think things will open up here in the next few days or few weeks to examine other options but as of now we are really happy with where we are, it is a combination of being patient and knowing exactly what we want as a club.”
There may not have been any hockey games on during the summer months but off the ice big changes have been made to the Elite League structure.
The loss of Edinburgh Capitals resulted in the number of teams dropping to eleven and it has also forced the end of the Scottish Elite Cup which ran for just a single year.
However, Pacha’s approach to the new season will not be altered much, he stated “It will change a bit, the league is going to be even more competitive without Edinburgh and having eleven strong teams.”
“You are making sure you get the right players and the right recruitment because you don’t want to make mistakes at this time of the season, it’s all about building a team that fits into your philosophy, that fits into your mentality and that you think you can achieve a lot of success with”.
Five of the ten players already signed up to pull on the Stars jersey next season are returning for another year in Dundee, when asked why he had kept this core group of players the Stars head coach responded: “We have recruited guys that had success with us and are young and that can get better.
“Every guy we signed back, besides Johan (Andersson) who is a bit older, have a lot of potential and haven’t reached their peak yet.
“Take a look at Lukas (Lundvald) he’s still young, just like Brian (Hart), (Jordan) Cownie and then we added a guy like (Charles) Corcoran at a young age, also (Drydn) Dow and (Connor) Cox coming out of university.
“These are guys that are hungry and have a full offseason to get better and to work on specific areas of their game to make sure they are prepared for this season.
“Sometimes when you recruit guys who are a bit older or on the backend of their career, it is good to get them in, even a guy like Johan that has that experience and can help the young guys”.
Last year Pacha repeatedly talked about the “buzz” about the Dundee Stars around the City of Discovery and he insists it is still there during the offseason. The 31-year old said: “There is still a buzz, obviously it’s the end of June, start of July thus it dies down a bit but I think by the start of August we are going to make a few announcements that I think the fans will be happy with and that will rejuvenate the excitement.
“You can see it now with the rink and the new ice pad with our logo in the middle of the ice and the improvements to the rink with the Dundee Stars being a lot more exposed and on the business side our sponsorships have been very positive.
He has not set the expectations for his team yet, but his main coaching philosophy is to always produce a “competitive” team on the ice.
“The overall goal on the ice is to be competitive and that’s the first thing, we want to be competitive in every single game we play.”
He continued: “We want to play fast, and we want to be one of the quickest teams in the league, I think last year we were fast but we were not fast enough.
“I think this year we are going to improve our defensive core massively and make sure we are conceding a lot less and to make sure we capitalise on all of the opportunities we get.
“Overall, we want to be fast, we want to be structured defensively and we want to make sure we are in every game.”
The club was boosted during the spring months by the record high season ticket sales and Pacha was quick to praise the fanbase for their continued and growing support since he took command of the city’s only top-flight club.
Omar said: “It has been unbelievable, the fanbase has been tremendous since my arrival but we grew that substantially, we grew the attendance by 60 per cent from last season already.
“You can just see there is so much excitement from the fans and there is so much positivity and we are fortunate enough to play in a sport that is really growing in the UK and especially in Dundee.
“I think there is a huge buzz within the city and you can just see the overall excitement of the fans coming into next year.
“It’s a lot of hard work, it is not going to be sold out from day one, but we expect our crowds to keep growing and it is up to us off the ice and on the ice to keep enticing them to come.”
Finally, Pacha has also praised the work of his commercial manger, Elliot Shaw, as he shares his thoughts on the growth of the business side of the club.
“When I came in we put the expectations higher off the ice but Elliot has done an incredible job on the commercial side to keep growing the business and to keep that exposure, Elliot is working hard to maintain sponsors and get in new sponsors and keep our interest high.”
He concluded: “I have said from day one, I am so appreciative of the fans for buying into our vision, they accepted every change we made and next year is going to be the same, we want to improve on a lot of aspects off the ice.
“We want to keep growing the sport, we want to be more in the public’s eye.
“We finalised a deal with the biggest radio station in Dundee, because we want to be in the newspapers, we want to be on tv, we want to be on every social media platform and we want to make sure we expose our club as much as possible.
“Hockey is the number one endorsed sport in all of the UK and there is going to be a lot more initiatives for the fans. Elliot and I will sit down with the ownership and discuss ways we can keep promoting the club. As of now, everyday is a new opportunity to grow the team.”
The general manager also shared that there will be announcements made in the coming days.