THE proud name of Deeside Dragons has been resurrected in a bold attempt to revitalise the fortunes of Flintshire ice hockey.
They will replace struggling Flintshire Freeze as a re-branded club which officials hope will launch a new era of success on the rink.
The Deeside Dragons, established in 1974, played at their peak in Division One of the British Hockey League from 1987-89. But since 1998 Flintshire Freeze has been the elite ice hockey club at Deeside Leisure Centre, competing in and winning EIHA Division One North in 2004.
In recent years, however, the Freeze have struggled and even been relegated. The management committee has now decided to revive the club’s predecessor as they regroup and build for a new promotion push.
Leading that charge will be Steve Fellows, who played for the Dragons as a young teenager.
Now 35, the Freeze veteran will be player/head coach of the Dragons and he has already begun sounding out potential recruits.
“I started playing before there were so many rules about children playing senior hockey,” he said. “As a result I was playing in the team when I was 14 or 15 in a squad with some really good players, and that made me a better player.
“But in recent times we have had four coaches in four years and we have had some good players but just not enough of them. I am already working on a few signings for next season that will improve the side.”
Changing the club is not a simple exercise. With a new club badge has come the need to re-lay the ice at the rink to set the logo in the centre, and Fellows is also targeting players in higher divisions in order to improve the quality and get the Dragons promoted at the first time of asking.
“We have a lot of great sponsors and Flintshire County Council gives us a lot of great support and continues to do so,” said Fellows.
“Changing the rink and the branding is a big job but we believe it is worth it. Having the dragon logo in the middle of the ice reminds everyone how proud we are to be a Welsh team.
“We have brought the Dragons name back for charity games recently. We were surprised by the number of fans who had drifted away from the game but returned because of the Dragons.
“So we started thinking and decided, as a committee, that coming full circle and reviving the Dragons could spark the club into life.”
Many of the young players who have broken through into the first team recently will be kept on to continue growing in experience as Fellows tries to bring stability to the club.
“We did really well last year under Karl Creamer,” he said. “We just lacked depth. But changing the coach every 12 months doesn’t help and a lot of people in ice hockey are wondering what has happened at the Freeze to get us in this situation.
“We are making a fresh start now and my first target is promotion.”
Having been player/assistant coach in 2004, Fellows is under no illusions about the task at hand.
“It is not an easy job but I am not running it alone as it has been in the past,” said Fellows. “We have a management committee now and as a team we are putting things in place to take this club forward.”
Flintshire County Council’s hockey coordinator Ian Taylor is looking forward to the opportunity of a fresh start.
“The last couple of seasons have seen the Freeze just tick over and I feel this rebranding could kick-start a successful period for our club,” he said.
“With a head coach that is looking to take our team further than just a 12-month stint I truly believe we’ll see the Deeside Dragons competing with the best that Division One has to offer within the next two seasons.”