FORMER Braehead Clan captain Matt Keith may have played in the NHL, but reckons the Champions Hockey League was something quite special during his time in Glasgow.

It was five years ago to the day when Clan returned from their baptism of fire in European competition, after taking on Swedish champions Växjö Lakers and German side Ingolstadt, their reward for a second place finish in the Elite League the season before and, as fans will tell you, it was the greatest adventure.

It’s a view shared by the former captain, once of Chicago Blackhawks, who looked back on the experience and even recalled the difference in preparation between Ryan Finnerty’s side then and Växjö before they met in the impressive Vida Arena.

“It was a big thing for us to be involved in those games as someone who played in the NHL, we took a lot of pride in it,” he said. “Our team were still coming together and I remember we picked up Chris Bruton at Heathrow Airport on the way to Växjö. 

“We didn’t even skate as a group until the morning of the game, while Växjö had been training for weeks, which became apparent. We went in blind and prepared as best we could, but we were hit with a 10-2 loss.

“Those were big games in a competition where you were able to go and put yourself up there.  From that point of view, it was fantastic.  We talked about it a lot at the start of that season and it didn’t matter where you played before.  We were the Braehead Clan and we wanted to show ourselves well against those top teams.”

While the lashing against Lakers was a sobering one, Clan boarded another plane to take them to Ingolstadt in Germany for their second away game in the space of three days and it was a place Keith knew well after playing there in the 2008-09 season.

As for the Glasgow side, it was a much better display against the DEL outfit and although it was another defeat on the board, going down 5-2, there was so much Finnerty’s men took from the game which led to further valiant displays at home, including beating the Germans 6-4 in Glasgow weeks later.

Keith added: “I was looking forward to returning to Ingolstadt that after playing there a few years before for a season.  It was fun to go back and as a team, we were better prepared for the game at the Saturn Arena.

“We were determined not to let what happened in Sweden happened again and I really thought we could have won that game.  I scored to put us in front, but we ended up losing, however we made such a better account of ourselves.

“The first two games can shape you as a team.  Not necessarily exhibition games, but those that mean something and can shape your identity. So losing 10-2 then performing a lot better in a 5-2 defeat showed we wouldn’t be pushed over.

“Recalling that experience, it would be huge for the Clan to get back to that competition and anything that can help an organisation more well known is important.  It attracts players, grows the fan base and the rewards can be great.

“Having a chance to compete in the Champions League every year is huge and that’s the target I’m sure for the Clan.  Being there again would be massive and would more than help the club grow further in Glasgow.”