Clan Seek Continued Progression
Currently leading the Elite League by 6 points, Braehead Clan’s rapid rise to the summit of the UK’s top tier has been nothing short of impressive.
Now in their fifth season, Braehead tasted Gardiner Conference success in 2012/13, followed by a third place finish in last season’s play-offs.
Currently on a six game winning streak; Ryan Finnerty’s side now find themselves in the driving seat as the Elite League approaches the home stretch. And for Clan Hockey Operations Director Gareth Chalmers, it’s all part of the plan.
“We’re very happy with how we’ve progressed this season” Chalmers told One Puck Short “And are certainly exceeding our expectations for the season, currently sitting top of the EIHL table.”
Progress is the name of the game in Braehead – both on and off the ice – as the club looks to establish firm roots in the area.
“Our aim this season was to win the Gardiner Conference, and improve on our fifth place finish; our focus remains to progress season upon season. But any success we have along the way is certainly a major advantage!”
It can sometimes be a thankless task, running a hockey team. While NHL executives are frequently at the forefront of their organisations, the ‘front office’ teams that keep British clubs moving are often unheralded by comparison – but the roles they fill are perhaps not so different.
Chalmers spent more than a decade with the now defunct Newcastle Vipers, and was only too happy to jump back into the fray when Braehead picked up the phone.
“When the previous General Manager parted company with the club, I started to have talks with the ownership here.” Chalmers said “Having spent twelve years with Newcastle in various roles, I always had an ambition of getting back into the day to day running of a hockey club.”
Based in the North East, Chalmers worked as an agent for players across the UK, Europe and beyond and had watched the fledgling Clan organisation make some positive early strides after joining the EIHL in 2010.
“I’d always kept an eye on Braehead, since the club’s inception, so when the opportunity arose to join the club it’s something I decided to pursue.”
He continued “The ownership here wanted me to take the role of Hockey Operations Director. They thought my experience of having worked as a players agent for six years would assist the Head Coach in achieving the progression we wanted to see on and off the ice.”
Now in his second season with the club, Chalmers role touches almost every corner of the club.
“I get involved with everything, it’s not as glamorous as some people may think.” Chalmers said “We have a very hard working off ice team here, and that’s what makes it work.”
“My role really is what the job title suggests” he continued “I work heavily with Head Coach Ryan Finnerty on the operational side – contracts, equipment, training scheduling, fixtures and so on – and also help with the ‘selling the team’ (i.e. getting bums on seats) via marketing and promotion of the Clan brand around the greater Glasgow area. There is so much to my job it would take far too much time to go into detail!”
Arguably the biggest club in Scotland now, Chalmers hopes Braehead can build on the early positives and continue to grow as a club moving forward.
“We have a very good team of people here, that all want to succeed as a business and a hockey club on the ice. The market here in Glasgow for ice hockey is very strong, a lot bigger than I originally realised.”
The cities two footballing behemoth’s may dominate the sporting landscape in Glasgow, but the Clan’s success is heartening to see – and perhaps a beacon that ice hockey can thrive in ‘football cities’, as long as the facilities are there.
“We are a very ambitious organisation and want to become the best in the UK eventually, however as previously mentioned it controlled progression.” Chalmers said “We want to build a very strong business, and a very strong hockey club, not for the short to medium term, but the long term.”
And with a new home on the horizon, the teams opportunities to grow look set to continue.
“We have a new Arena being built here at Braehead in time for 2018; so our next step is to move from a 3,500 seat facility into one that is likely to be at least double that.”
With the Clan now firmly cementing their place in the Elite League, the potential for hockey to grow in the city appears to be there. And with the former set up in nearby Paisley now gone, Chalmers is keen to see junior take off within the Braehead Arena as well.
“I would be very interested in having a full junior development setup here from under 10’s all the way to the senior EIHL team.” he enthused “It’s something we’ve discussed and is part of our longer term plans – however it all depends on how we grow as an organisation and what ice time availability there will be long term at Braehead.”
‘Long term’ isn’t always a phrase you hear in British hockey, but Braehead’s early success and determination to continue progressing is undoubtedly impressive.
If they can find a way to establish a development pathway from u10 to EIHL, that would be a huge boost to the club (and perhaps the sport in Scotland) – especially when so many other clubs development structures can be found wanting.
In the ‘here and now’, this season almost certainly represents the next step in the club’s development. Putting their winning streak on the line against struggling Coventry tonight, Braehead now face a new kind of pressure – as leaders, rather than chasers.
Being top dog comes with a whole new set of challenges for any team; but whether Braehead achieve their aim of being the first Scottish club to lift the Elite League title this season or not, the way the team has so rapidly captured the attention of the Glasgow public is heartening for their long term prospects – and for prospects of hockey in Scotland.
Thanks to Gareth for his time – you can follow him on Twitter @GarethChalmers