THE Newcastle Vipers have had a nightmarish 2010 off the ice, but Mike Prpich’s only concern is giving opponents sleepless nights about the thought of playing on it.
The Vipers’ future is in doubt while the financially-stricken club look for new investors.
But in recent weeks, the worse things have been off the ice, the better their results. For all the uncertainty and chopping and changing of their squad, the Vipers take on Elite League giants Sheffield Steelers and Coventry Blaze in good heart this weekend.
Prpich went through similar difficulties in his first year as a Cardiff Devil, and believes adversity has brought the best out of his current side. “We’ve pulled together as a team,” he said. “We have to stick together. We’ve been dealing with it as a group. We all know it’s out of our control and we just have to get on with it.
“There’s a lot of teams going through financial trouble at the moment. My first year in Cardiff we had a little bit of trouble.
“You have to worry about what happens on the ice and leave the backroom stuff to get on with their thing.
“If you get too cut up with what’s happening off the ice you get distracted. The club keep us updated, which is nice, but I try not to think about it.
“But the support we’ve had from other teams has been great and people in this country love their hockey.”
Former Vipers Jeff Hutchins and Jeremy Domish – now at Sheffield – have been urging as many away supporters as possible to travel to Hillheads today and boost Newcastle’s coffers. Steelers founder David Simms, now the frontman of Sky’s Elite League coverage, has also been whipping up support for the game.
Last week saw a landmark win over tomorrow’s hosts Coventry and put them in pole position for a Challenge Cup semi-final.
“I think guys are getting an idea of how to play, especially at Whitley Bay,” said Prpich.
“We’re starting to learn as a team we can make Whitley Bay a nightmare to play in. We showed we can do it against Coventry and Nottingham by playing it simple.”
The Vipers will also be trying to attract as many Whitley Warriors fans as possible this week, with a night off from English National League ice hockey. The Warriors have a big game of their own to look forward to, with a North One derby against Northern Stars at Hillheads tomorrow.