HULL PIRATES’ first season was certainly a character-building journey as the young side endured a difficult debut in the English Premier League.
Led by former Hull Stingrays forward Dominic Osman, the club were always going to be up against it having only six weeks to put together a team ready for the 2015-2016 season.
Following Stingrays’ liquidation in June 2015, it was Sheffield Steeldogs’ owner Shane Smith who stepped up with Osman to ensure ice hockey would remain in the city, albeit at a lower level to what fans had been used to under the likes of Rick Strachan, Sylvain Cloutier and Omar Pacha.
Osman had initially been appointed by Smith to succeed Andre Payette at the Steeldogs, but the American was quickly persuaded to return to the city where he had played for three seasons, first under Cloutier and then, in 2014-15, Pacha.
The campaign culminated with the side finishing ninth on the back of a number of chastening results along the way. But the key with youth is resilience and player-coach Osman believes his young side will be better equipped to deal with the expectations of the EPL second time around.
“When I took the role last year we were pressed on time to recruit,” said Osman. “It was challenging and we brought in a lot of young guys and the ones we did bring in did a tremendous job. The guys we retained are coming back with a year’s more experience and more belief.”
Looking forward to the 2016-2017 season Osman said there were a number of key areas which needed strengthening.
Last week the club completed their five-import allowance by bringing in Lithuanian forward Ugnius Cizas. He joins fellow imports Stanislav Lascek, Jaroslav Sarsok, Andrej Themar and Osman.
On his new-look roster for 2016-17, Osman added: “One thing we needed to do was bolster our defence, our defensive game needs to be a lot better.
“We were young back there last season and it showed. Our whole team needs to be defensively better, not just the defence. That’s what we’ve looked at - getting bigger and stronger.
“We’ve added a few younger guys for depth but we’ve added experience as well. We just want to make sure we’re doing the right things to move forward next year.
“We’re going to have a really challenging team next year and we are looking to challenge for trophies. But we want to do that in the right way and make sure that the building blocks are in place.”
Talking of buildong blocks, Osman is keen to stress the importance of developing the club off the ice as well as on it.
The importance of establishing links with local schools and other organisations in the local community cannot be underestimated said Osman.
“The Sky’s the limit here in Hull,” added Osman. “Shane and I believed that when we started and we have seen that during our short time here.
“We need to make sure we get the right things in place not only around the rink, but make sure that we get things up and running around the community as far as schools programmes. It’s a lot different to what it used to be in Hull and we keep getting good feedback from the schools involved.
“That’s what is going to help us bring people to the building and make it a really special place.”
Osman said the club’s management were under no illusions as to the huge task ahead of them in East Yorkshire to build the franchise back up again following the sad demise of their predecessors, the Stingrays.
But, with a little bit opf patience, Osman believes the future is bright for ice hockey in the city.
“Right now we see ourselves building every year,” he said.
“We don’t want to look too far down the road because you can get caught up in results when you’re not doing the right things.
“We need to put the correct things in place to get the results. We need to move quickly, but smartly and I believe in five years’ time this place can be an absolute fortress.”