AFTER a difficult summer with hold-ups in the multi-million pound refurbishment of the Riverside ice rink, Chelmsford Chieftains' season is about to start.
Saturday, 2 October sees the 2010-11 Chieftains take to the ice for the first time in anger in what will be a tough first game away to Wightlink Raiders on the Isle of Wight, followed up by a tricky game away in Oxford 24 hours later.
This all leads into ice hockey returning to the heart of Essex when the Chieftains will do battle with the Streatham Redskins on Sunday, 10 October at 6.30pm.
The Riverside is much-improved, with new changing rooms, toilet facilities, new ice pad and catering areas, as well as a new scoreboard so it is hoped to vastly improve the matchnight experience for fans, players and officials.
The work which has cost over £3m has shown the dedication to ice sports and leisure facilities from the local council and Chieftains have expressed their thanks to the council and the contractors for the work they have put in. The Chieftains organisation have also like to thank the EIHA and the other clubs in the league for their patience throughout what has been a roller-coaster summer.
Chieftains head coach Dean Birrell said: "We've had a tough off-season and preparations haven't been ideal, but we've made the best of it and I'm sure come face off on Saturday we'll be ready. We've worked hard on a variety of things away from the ice, but when we have trained on the ice things have gone very well. All the players have been working hard and training as much as possible and we're ready to go.
"I've said that Wightlink have improved and I believe it will be an ideal test for us as our first outing for the season. Jeremy Cornish has built a hard-working, tough hitting side and the small ice surface works in their favour a lot of the time, but we've got the speed element and we've got guys who are as prepared to check and hit back, so it should be a great game. Oxford are a different proposition.
"They work hard, are well-drilled and are tough to break down and there is a reason they are top of the league. No team in this league should be taken lightly and I know it's an old cliché, but this season the league really has got better and stronger and we've had to up our game as well.
"I believe the players we've brought in have brought something to the team to give us that extra that we were perhaps missing at times last year. I still believe we have the capability and the players to win the league, but it will be tougher now but it's down to us to show the determination and professionalism to put the problems behind us and get on with the job in hand."
Away from the ice the club have been working hard to secure new sponsors this summer, as well as retaining existing ones, and most of the main sponsors from last season have agreed to stay on board.
The club have welcomed Grants SEAT, amongst others, into the fold as big name supporters and are still looking for further entrants to the 'big screen draw'. The draw will take place at the first home game on October 10 and first prize is a website link from the Chieftains site (Over 1.7m views last year) and an advert on the new big screen at the rink. All entrants will get a link from the club's site and second prize is a half-page advert in the clubs programme for the season. Entry closes now on 8th October.
Further to that, the club have also agreed to support Autism Anglia as their chosen charity for the season and will be looking to support and raise money for this excellent organisation.
For further information on the 'big screen draw' visit www.chelmsfordchieftains.co.uk or contact Pete Lewis via firstname.lastname@example.org