Ice Hockey: Capitals chief Neil sets out plans

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Edinburgh CAPITALS make the trip over the Irish Sea to take on ice hockey’s Elite League leaders Belfast Giants tonight before returning home to face Hull Stingrays on Sunday (face-off 6pm).

Ahead of the double-header, Capitals’ co-owner Scott Neil, although expecting a difficult run-in to the end-of-season play-offs, today revealed how he believes current player/coach Richard Hartmann is the perfect fit for the Capitals.

“He’s got the ethos of what we need at this club. He’s not scared to coach players, he’s not scared to try and develop players. He’s taken over very much what was a speculative team, and I think moulded them together in the best way possible, we’ve got a good atmosphere in the dressing-room, and the guys have got a good work ethic, he’s built that into them. Whilst we may not be the most talented team in the league, I don’t think there’s a fan who can say that all our players don’t work hard for the shirt.

“Already he’s thinking about the long-term future of the club which means junior development. He’s a coach who would doesn’t want a consistent conveyor belt of players bought into the club, he’d much rather see a conveyor belt of players coming through our own system.”

Neil today declared himself “reasonably happy” with the season to date. Capitals occupy seventh place in the ten-strong league and Neil is confident the season goal of achieving a top-eight finish and a play-off spot can be achieved: “We’ve got to be reasonably happy with the season so far, we’ve put together a team that was really geared to try and consolidate a play-off place and compete with the teams in our half of the league. To date, we have achieved that. We do eventually want to challenge the bigger teams again but that’s got to be done in a sensible manner.

“We’re already in a stronger position than we were last summer. I think we’re establishing a good platform not just for the team on the ice, but for the whole club to move forward in many areas.

“I do expect it to be a tough run-in, and expect to be getting challenged for a play-off place. We’ve got some difficult games ahead.”

The Elite League, British ice hockey’s top tier, has come under fire this season and in seasons past for not being competitive enough from top to bottom. However, the Caps are currently in a fierce tussle for the seventh play-off spot, holding a three-point advantage over Sunday’s visitors, Hull Stingrays, although they trail sixth-placed Braehead Clan by a massive 14 points.

Neil has always been an advocate for a level playing field within the league, and has been outspoken in his criticism of the current set-up, however he does believe that Edinburgh, whose participation this season was in doubt after a disastrous 2010-11 campaign, have turned a corner and can enjoy greater success in years to come.

“The addition of the other Scottish clubs has helped, we now have three local rivals, and there’s a good travelling support beginning to build up, which has been good for everybody. Our challenge for next season is to provide as much resources as we can into developing a stronger squad and off-ice product, it really is a balancing act.

“I’m as much a hockey fan as anyone else and nothing would please me more than to give Richard the resources he needs to put a championship winning squad on the ice, but there are other areas we need to work on.”