WITH less than a month before they start what will genuinely be a new era for the club, Newcastle Vipers will step up their search for the “enforcer” they hope can draw the crowds.
The Vipers go into their September 11 exhibition game against Edinburgh Capitals at their new permanent Whitley Bay home, with a new coach, new chairman, almost entirely new squad and new title sponsor after announcing a tie-up with Winn Solicitors yesterday.
Player-coach Danny Stewart has signed a whole squad to play alongside Jamie Tinsley – the only survivor of last season’s Elite League campaign. But general manager Jaimie Longmuir revealed the club are still looking to fill one of their two remaining import slots with a crowd-pleasing hardman.
In Paddy O’Connor’s previous spell as chairman, from 2005 to 2007, the Vipers always had at least one notorious brawler, reveling in their role as pantomime villains. In a Stars Wars-themed advertising campaign for the new season, they are marketing themselves as the league’s “Dark Side”.
Having preferred skill to scufflers last term, the Vipers are actively pursuing a successor to the likes of Mel “The Mangler” Angelstad and Andre Payette. But after Hull Stingrays this week became the latest British ice hockey team to fold, Longmuir will go in with a reduced roster rather than endanger his franchise’s finances.
“We’ve got three (import) slots remaining but we’ve agreed terms with a defenceman which we should be announcing shortly,” revealed Longmuir.
“We’ve got scope to bring in two import forwards but we’re not bringing in guys for the sake of it. I think there’ll be an offer going out this week for one and then we would like to bring in a heavyweight enforcer-type player.
“Hopefully the right guy becomes available but I like the team, I like their age and hopefully it will be an excellent season and exciting for people to watch.”
Blair Stayzer, Charlie Effinger, Dale Mahovsky, Dan Speer, Jamie Carroll, Jaroslaw Rzeszutko, Kyle Sibley, Liam McAllister, Nathan Salem, Paul Sample, Rob Wilson, Sam Zajac and Scott Langdon are confirmed for the new Elite League season, which opens with a double-header against Sheffield Steelers on September 18/19.