FORMER Dundee Stars player-coach Dan Ceman’s first game in the Elite League 10 years ago was a baptism of fire, but it did give him an excellent grounding as he began his coaching career.

Stars were thrashed 6-0 in their first EIHL game on September 5, 2010, by Sheffield Steelers after joining the top flight and it went on to be a campaign not without its issues as they made the transition from the five-team Northern League.

For Ceman, despite his many years of experience as a player, it was a very different world on that opening night as he took his first steps as a player-coach.

“It was a baptism of fire for sure,” he said. “We were learning as we went and made mistakes. We didn’t have a lot of money to work with and it was a case of trying to see what worked and what didn’t.

“My major role was bringing in a team within the budget and I spoke to as many people as possible, but this was it for me. What I learned from Dundee
helped lay the foundation as a coach, especially the recruiting side, and I’ve taken that to the other roles I’ve had since I left the UK.

“It was years’ worth of experience in one summer. I was thrown right into it, but it gave me a huge foundation of information to build from.

“Looking back, my biggest recollection from that first game was a lot of excitement, particularly in the build-up to it. It was daunting, going into an experience where the budget we had was nothing like what the big teams had.

“It was nerve-racking, especially coming up against Sheffield, which was always going to be a tough task. We got beat pretty good, but didn’t have expectations of going in and competing with the top teams right away.”

Stars, along with the Braehead Clan, as they were then, came into the league in the same season and while the Clan started later, Dundee’s introduction to life with the big boys was hard, losing 16 straight games before finally winning against the Cardiff Devils at the end of October.

Ceman was sacked by the Stars in the middle of his second season, but has gone on to become a well-regarded coach, winning titles in Denmark with Sonderjyske and Slovakia with Banska Bystrica before moving to Austria with Villacher in the summer.

As the years have moved on, Ceman has not had the time to follow his old team as closely  as he used to, but he says that day 10 years ago confirmed what he wanted to do with the next phase of his career.

“It’s a time I look back on fondly and that first year was magical in so many ways,” he said. “We had a brutal start. It wasn’t fun as the losses mounted and soon we made some decisions which improved the team.

“After I left, I followed things closely for a number of years because of the guys I knew who were still playing, but I must admit, I’ve fallen out of touch. As my career has progressed, I have less time to do stuff like that, plus we’ve added one to the family too.

“But my time in Dundee confirmed that coaching was what I wanted to do and it made it clear to me that I was ready to take that on. Ten years on, I think I’ve done okay.”