Why Edinburgh Capitals need their own Miracle on Ice

Ice Hockey at Murrayfield - Edinburgh Royals versus Glasgow Mohawks
Ice Hockey at Murrayfield - Edinburgh Royals versus Glasgow Mohawks

These are tough times for Edinburgh Capitals.

The club is nailed to the bottom of the league, and drifting so badly their season may be beyond saving.

Mike Ware (Murrayfield Racers) fighting Rob Abel (Fife Flyers) 1993-94  (Pic: Bill Dickman, Fife Free Press)

Mike Ware (Murrayfield Racers) fighting Rob Abel (Fife Flyers) 1993-94 (Pic: Bill Dickman, Fife Free Press)

Off the ice, there is uncertainty.

Capitals Hockey Limited is being wound-up, and there is talk of a new investor in the wings, but the fans are still waiting on the statement the club said would clear the air.

Sunday’s crowd was certainly down on both sides of the ice pad.

Fife didn’t take a huge support - December is a busy, costly month and it was a bitterly cold night – but the gaps among the home crowd were concerning.

Ice hockey at Murrayfield - Royals v Fife Flyers

Ice hockey at Murrayfield - Royals v Fife Flyers

Chatting to some long-in-the-tooth fans, who’ve endured everything from the days when Murrayfield Royals first played there, some fans ARE stepping back from the sport they love.

Three wins in 21 starts will always test the loyalty of even the most die-hard supporters, but when matters off-ice also surface then it is a perfect storm, and one Caps have no choice but to to weather.

From the outside looking in, these are the darkest days since their flit to Livingstone Ice Rink.

The club was in disarray then, Murrayfield suddenly no longer became an option – there was a row and a lock-out – and the team found itself skating out of the small civic rink in the heart of the neighbouring town.

The Livingston link was certainly short-lived - from memory it came at the end of a season of troubles - but it felt strange watching this great, all-conquering, often fearless hockey club displaced.

Hockey in Edinburgh has endured tough times in the past and will probably do so again in the future. The key now is to keep it alive.

The city has never fully embraced any minority sport.

If it isn’t Hearts, Hibs or rugby, the good folk of Auld Reekie really don’t want to know.

Despite that apathy, ice hockey has entertained generations.

It may have survived on a wing and prayer at times, but the good people at the heart of this club deserve every respect for putting their soul into keeping the sport alive in Scotland’s capital.

The rink may be old, the facilities out of time with the expectations of today’s leisure scene, but it is a vital sporting asset, and one that is still standing, still functioning at a time when the city’s fathers are ready to tear down Meadowbank Stadium – the arena built to host Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Games in the 1970s is now utterly unfit for purpose. Has been for years.

Murrayfield rink is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year – a landmark that seems to have gone largely un-marked – having opened in 1952.

In truth, it should be ready to mark its 80th year as the rink was slated for opening at the same time as Kirkcaldy’s, until the Government requisitioned it for the war effort and turned it into a supplies store, only handing it back at the start of the 1950s.

Fife was due to be taken for the war effort too, but locals argued it was a place of entertainment vital to the community spirit, and so we skated, danced and watched hockey through the war years on this side of the Forth.

Caps will see out the season, for sure, but their biggest challenge is keeping the hockey flame flickering.

It’s a heck of a long way to go to next March with nothing to shoot for.

Play-offs? In truth, if Caps make them that’d be the UK’s very own Miracle On Ice.

Seven points adrift of Dundee, 13 behind Coventry and with a log-jam of teams between them and the top eight, this is mission impossible territory.

Whoever steps in has to find ways of sustaining the fanbase - and also thanking it.

They need reasons to believe, and to keep on believing.

Whether the Russian approach continues is hard to say. Coach Dmitri Khristich appeared a detached figure on the bench on Sunday.

I know some advocate a clear out to recruit some young guns willing to come and play some hockey and enjoy life in Scotland’s capital. As destinations go, it’s one of the best - but that’s a heck of sales pitch when your team’s season is effectively a busted flush.

Treading water until March 2018 is a grim prospect, so I hope everyone who cares about the club, who has a view and wants to muck in, is afforded the warmest of welcomes. This is a real ‘’we’re all in this together’’ moment.

Sports teams are all about people. Their passion, their commitment, their efforts breathe life into every aspect of their operations.

Caps need that network more than ever.

And so do we. A sporting rivalry only thrives when it has two competitive teams.