The indefinite suspension of the Elite Ice Hockey League season has meant new challenges to overcome by the clubs, but Dundee Stars’ General Manager and coach Omar Pacha has a motivation to keep them going for the next year.

Since arriving in 2017, Pacha has overseen a period of growth in Tayside that has saw an increase in attendances, engagement with the fans as well as posting record season ticket sales as he offers the sporting fans of Dundee something different.

However, the shutdown of the 2020/21 campaign has made the Canadian all the more determined not to rest on his laurels. After all, just because there isn’t any on-ice action, there’s no guarantees the fans who have found the club in recent years will still be there in a year’s time and it’s a fear Pacha believes all clubs should have.

“We’ve built thing well since I first came here,” Pacha said. “We’ve done brilliantly with our season ticket sales, our brand awareness, the following we have on social media. Now my focus is all about keeping the team afloat, keep things going and we’ll have to take the initiative to keep everyone involved.

“Losing the fans is a fear every club should have and should be a driving force to keep growing, especially at this time. For me, I don’t believe in just shutting down and hoping and expecting our fans to still be there next year.

“Our goal is to keep them in the loop and release news as we go on. As long as we’re keeping our fans informed, they’ll appreciate that and keep us in the back of their mind so when we do return, they’ll be ready to welcome us back.”

All ten clubs adopted their own approach to preparing for what was meant to be this season. While some teams did very little, Stars were surprisingly proactive, actually announcing a number of signings until it became clear it would all be in vain.

It must be quite something to persuade a player to come to your club then weeks later, tell them they may have to look at possible other opportunities in the face of ongoing uncertainty and that was something Pacha had to do as it looked likely there would be no campaign to get ready for.

“We had two options over the summer,” the Dundee coach added. “One was to prepare for a season as though it was happening or you just think it’s not going to happen anyway. We always operated on the hope there would be a new campaign and be prepared instead of scrambling around at the last minute.

“Nobody knew when the previous season ended in March that suspending this season would be an option. We had planned for a start in October then December, but as time went on, we began to advise the players we had to look at possible other opportunities elsewhere.

“It was a challenge to change that mindset, even though, in the background, there remained that bit of hope. We made the right decision. The players who have moved on, we’ve told them we’d like to discuss the possibility of them coming back next year.

“I cannot predict the future of course, but the likes of Anthony Beauregard, we had a great discussion with him before he left. He loves it here and we love having him here so that was a positive start for us. Right now, there are no guarantees, but right now, we’re using this time to build as much knowledge and experience as we can to make things better going forward.”