HARD work, dedication and fan power are the key ingredients to a successful season for Coventry Blaze according to head coach Chuck Weber as he embarks on his first full season at the Skydome.
The team, which has several new faces, reported back for training this week in preparation for the new campaign which begins with a double header against Fife Flyers next weekend.
Weber feels this season will be the strongest yet in the Elite League and he knows just how important a role the fans can play both at home and on the road.
“I think the fans are going to be the ones who benefit the most this year because there’s going to be a lot of good hockey being played,” Weber told the Observer.
“I think every team in this league, one through to ten, has improved their roster.
“The coaching cliché is to give 110 per cent but it’s the fans that give you the extra ten per cent.
“The energy at home and when our fans travel on the road and make more noise then the home fans, the guys feed off that stuff.
“They’ve supported the guys in the dark days last year from what I understand they’ve had it a little tough at times but they’ve stuck behind us.
“I think we won ten in a row at home towards the end of last season and we were really hitting that 100 per cent capacity – the boys really felt that.”
Weber moved to the Skydome back in December last year and took over the reigns of a side low in confidence.
He made changes that at first were unpopular with the players in a bid to get the team into shape and those values remain in place now.
“I identified two or three things. I watched them on video before I took the job. I wouldn’t have taken on the job if I thought there wasn’t potential.
“I thought they were out of shape and I thought they lacked structure. They also had a lot of injuries too.
“The guys will admit to a man they hated me to a man in the first few weeks because they were like ‘this guy is really making us work hard’.
“But they saw the benefits and now the guys are like ‘why does he keep making us work so hard?’ But it works – trust me.”
Blaze shocked the ice hockey community last season by climbing from ninth to claim a place in the play-offs before going on to beat Elite League champions Sheffield Steelers in the play-off final.
Weber admits it was a highlight in his illustrious career and one that he feels the players deserved.
“I couldn’t be happier for the players last year because they really embraced the culture that we tried to change last year,” Weber told the Observer.
“It wasn’t easy. As a coach you want to see players rewarded for their efforts and our guys were really rewarded last year and I couldn’t be more happier for them.
“We were ninth in goals for in the league last year but the guys bought into the attitude and everything else and we became a good.”
There were some question marks over Weber’s future at the Skydome over the summer and he admits there was interest in his services from other teams.
“I did talk with some other teams in some other countries and stuff like that. But I just made the decision based on what was best for my family and I.
“We have a fantastic ownership group here. There were some tough times here last year but they allowed me to do it my way and I respected that. I think they realise it works out that way and we’re all excited to be back.”
As for season goals, Weber added: “We want to try and set ourelves up for as many chances to win as possible.
“Last year it took 35 wins to win the regular season championship so we’ll have to have that goal, and then the Continental Cup, the Challenge Cup as well as the play-offs which are huge goals for all of us.
“It’s going to be interesting to get the guys together and get them all working on the same page, but we think we have some good individual players that hopefully we can turn into a great team.”