Hockey in and around Edinburgh has a storied history. From the Murrayfield Racers to today’s Edinburgh Capitals, from players like Tony Hand and Scott Neil to Sean Beattie and James Wallace, the game in Scotland has seen almost everything there is to see. Starting out as a grassroots movement and moving towards a professional association, it has never been an easy task to keep the attention on the game moving higher. However, that could be said for the whole of the United Kingdom, not just Edinburgh itself.
The Murrayfield Racers also has its legacy but it’s been built in the past. The Edinburgh Capitals are looking to create a legacy of their own for the here and now. A new generation of fans have emerged and are trying to help the team take it to the next level. With the right mix of awareness, promotion and of course the product on the ice, the Capitals have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Enter Steve Salvini.
Salvini has been a hockey fan since the 1980’s following the aforementioned Murrayfield Racers but when the club went bankrupt so did the following. In October of 2012, Salvini was offered a discount ticket for the Caps. With his two daughters tagging along, he once again became hooked with the hits, saves and goals of the game of hockey. Even his one daughter Lorna became a die hard fan and started going week after week with him.
Noting that he wanted to help the club and create more promotion for the team, Salvini reached out to Scott Neil to see what he could do to help. Neil mentioned that the Supporters Club was dormant and well, it was Salvini’s to take if he wanted. The rest is history.
As the current interim chair, I spoke with Steve about some of the trials the Supporters Club is facing and threw in some good hockey chat for good measure.
March Hockey: Do you think that with time the Edinburgh Capitals can capture the reputation that the Murrayfield Racers once had?
Steve Salvini: The Racers had a great sponsor in Smirnoff at a time when the league was sponsored by a rival brewer / distiller in Heineken. This meant that Smirnoff were both generous and disinclined to give up their foothold in a league where sponsorship by any new alcohol companies was now disallowed. Caps need a similarly large and generous sponsor before the can hope to emulate the Racers success.
The Caps also need to grow their fan base. AT present there are probably 300 hard core fans who turn up to everything and another 300 who are fairly regular. After that, there are anything up to another 500 who are at best fickle: their attendance depends on the success of the team and/or discounted tickets! That said, most of these fans are already into hockey.
The all-new supporters club are reaching out to a wider audience and reach those who do not know the sport at all or simply do not know it is played in Edinburgh. The latter group may include the large groups of Eastern European’s now living in Edinburgh, for example. They might both be missing their usual hockey and fix and respond well to a team with a large proportion of players from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, etc.
MH: Breaking the old school mentality aspect of the fans (I.E. the Racer fans) is a tough task. How do they see the Caps in general? Do they give them the respect they deserve?
SS: I’m not sure I completely agree with your comment about the “old school mentality”. The way I see it is that the Racers operated in a completely different environment to the Caps. In the Racers heyday there were limited numbers of imports and so they may have appeared to be some much better than the majority of players around them whereas nowadays most of the players are full-time professionals. The game has also become much more professional in its approach. For example, I am sure you have read the part in Tony Hand’s autobiography where he makes reference to players drinking BEFORE games. Nowadays that simply would not be tolerated, by management or even other players. Similarly the shorelines are different. My first game was a 12-12 draw with Durham Wasps – today’s equivalent might be a 3-3 draw as teams are more balanced in their approach to defence. In Racers heyday every team just went all out to out-shoot their opponents, back-checking was, err, something of a rarity. Also, net-minding was left to British players again leading to higher scoring games. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Racers days but I also love the game today. It was/is all hockey – nether approach is right or wrong, both are simply the product available at the particular time.
Racers days were a big party for fans and players, now it’s a professional sport – flip side it that it more impersonal, there is much less chance that the team’s star defenceman lives in the next street so there’s less of a local attachment to the team.
MH: How does Edinburgh develop their local talent? Which teams do they draw from for reinforcements, if any?
SS: Well-develop junior setup – teams at under 10, 12, 15, 18 plus Scottish National League (SNL) team – sort of second string team including youngsters knocking on the door of the Big Team plus old hands who are helping the young guys develop. There is also an Academy System for those thought possibly able to make the step up from Junior / SNL level to the EIHL.
No “farm teams” as such but recruit from own Juniors set up and that of others (including arch-rivals Fife Flyers!) plus attract players from other SNL teams for example James Wallace from Solway Sharks and Callum Boyd from Kilmarnock Storm.
MH: Most of us here in Canada never hear about the greats from non-hockey countries. Scottish guys like Tony Hand and Scott Neil helped put ice hockey on the map to not only create a following in Scotland but the U.K. as well. Who are some of the current up and coming stars that we should keep an eye on?
SS: “Non-hockey” country??? Hockey is the second most popular indoor sport in the UK!
Yeah, Ok, that doesn’t mean much really.
The up-and-coming stars from Edinburgh include Sean Beattie and Jay King. Both are in the Edinburgh Capitals Academy System and play for the EIHL and SNL teams. Plus both play age group for Scotland.
MH: Has Edinburgh adopted a rivalry with any of the other EIHL squads?
SS: Ever since a team played out of Murrayfield Ice Rink the big rivals have always been Fife Flyers. In fact, it’s interesting how many Fife fans have said how much they want Edinburgh to improve so they can start “hating” them properly again! The rivalry is definitely there but also the camaraderie of the “hockey family” that I think makes our sport unique.
MH: How can fans get involved to help the team grow?
SS: Join the Supporters Club and work together to build the fan base – bring along a new person to every game – stay positive and keep behind the team even (especially?) when they are going through the inevitable bad patches. Talk up the Caps at every opportunity – word of mouth is the best advertising we can have. The company running the team need more income – that will come from, a larger fan base – but they also value the various professional and technical skills we can donate to them – everything from helping paint the changing rooms to writing programme articles to helping provide jobs or work experience placements for players to introducing potential sponsors to the club. Enthusiasm, energy and support for the players we can all give. Keep the faith!
For more information on the Edinburgh Capitals Supporters Club including how to help out and become a part of the movement, check out their website at www.edcapssc.co.uk and follow them on Twitter: @EdCapsSC