OSC Event – Q&A with Ryan Finnerty – Friday 15th June 2018
On Friday 15th June, 60+ Storm fans descended on the Cresta Court Hotel in Altrincham, as Nick Barlow, OSC Chair, welcomed everyone to ask questions of GM & Head Coach Ryan Finnerty.
Where are we going in terms of recruitment? A lot of teams have signed big names already.
RF: We have offers out to Hammond and Beca. Rosehill has retired. Moffat and Byers have re-signed for another season. We will be looking to go down the spare import route again, it was beneficial to us last year. We can bring in a spare import at a cheaper cost than an ex-EPL player. It’s hard to talk about Brit development, some EPL players were on higher wages than EIHL players, so don’t want to move up a level for lower pay.
We are trying to hold what we can, but we can’t afford massive pay rises. We want to play 3 line hockey, we want to have a 3rd line that produces more than last year. Ciaran Long is the focus of our Brit-core as we believe he will be a 20+ goal scorer next season and can play on any line.
In defence, Swindlehurst has moved on. We want 5 import D this year. We offered Swindlehurst a contract but nothing compared to what Belfast offered – he had offers from Belfast, Sheffield, and Fife fought hard for him. We couldn’t match what was offered. We have one more D to bring in but the core will look like last year [Harrison Ruopp has signed with Storm since the Q&A took place]. Also need some goalies.
What is the impact of losing Edinburgh Capitals?
RF: I like the balanced league, 3 home 3 away for every team. Scheduling will be more difficult as every night, a team won’t be playing. Some more Friday games may be trialled, 3 game weekends to make sure everyone gets a game at weekend. It levels the playing field. It allows us more games against Cardiff, Sheffield, also it will be a true reflection of the league.
What happened in the board meeting regarding Murrayfield Racers?
RF: There was a vote. There was no need for a revote as it was pretty unanimous. There were still talks of a London team, it may or may not happen and there are still questions over the Hull rink.
The UK had highest viewership for Olympic ice hockey, and those games were shown in the morning, not prime time. Freesports and the EIHL are in talks about a TV deal, which could require Wednesday games.
Is an 11 league team a backwards step? Did the league look elsewhere for a 12th team?
RF: There is a Dutch Team in Tilburg, in the German 3rd League, that won the league comfortably, but couldn’t join the 2nd League. They wanted to move up a league and talks of maybe joining the UK league, and in time, this may happen. I think it would be a great option for the league, for fans
How much say do you have over appeals? Given Rosehill was targeted as a repeat offender, but others weren’t punished the same.
RF: Sylvestre from Belfast had many abuse of official penalties but was never suspended, and was never classed as a repeat offender. The next board meeting of player safety there will be hard guidelines put in so everyone knows exactly what is what. Anything under 3 games can be appealed but you have to pay to appeal and it’s hard to overturn a decision. It hurt Rosehill last year, he couldn’t play his game. I moved him to D to allow him to focus on his game, playing up front he was paralysed and couldn’t play for fear of penalties.
Can you tell us about the three tier system for the own and loan jerseys this season?
NB: We have a target of what we need to raise an OSC so we need to maximise income.Some players would be very popular and would be sold as soon as they come up for sale. Others less popular, and some that people wouldn’t know.
The unknown players jerseys could be bought at a lower price to encourage early sales. The popular players would be at top price to maximise revenue. Last year prices had to be dropped mid season for the less popular or unknown players, and so revenue wasn’t as expected. Auctions were considered but seen as unfair as people could be priced out. Wanted to be fair and to allow more people access to own and loan.
RF: For Storm to break even its tough. No one is going to make money. We can either raise ticket prices, or reduce the budget, and put a bad product on the ice. We don’t want to do either. We want to keep ticket prices competitive, but to keep competitive on the ice, we need to generate money. If people complain about the jerseys for sale – don’t buy them!
The challenge cup jersey will now be an alternate jersey, to get that worn more throughout the year. People buy them, we want to get more use out of them.
Dumanis is taking a big role in designing the jerseys. It’s a small business, but very supportive of Storm. They have a good product and a better turnaround time.
All the money raised by the OSC goes straight to the team. Visas, travel, NHS fees – guys with families coming over can be very expensive, so we need to find ways to generate revenue without raising ticket prices or compromising on-ice product.
Would there be a competition to design a jersey?
RF: Maybe. We could sell it.
Are the European teams coming for the 4 nations bringing fans over? Will the OSC be organising a fan mixer event?
NB: Once we understand how many travelling fans are coming over, we may organise something at the Station, a social event
RF: Toelzer Loewen have come in to replace SC Riesersee, who pulled out of the DEL2 for financial reasons.
How do things compare to this time last year?
RF: It’s amazing what we’ve accomplished in a year. Last year, we came in and could see there were reservations but people have bought into what we’re trying to achieve here. We’re building good relationships with sponsors. Sponsorship is so important, it’s what will separate us from being a low low budget team fighting to survive. We have the best city in the UK for sponsorship, we need to get them to games. We have a few new sponsors from the city centre, like Tiger Tiger.
Altrincham is one of the few arenas in the world where you can watch this level of hockey right on the glass. I’d encourage people to take advantage of that.
Would a draft system encourage British players?
RF: There needs to be something in place for 15-18 yr olds, for the ones that want to continue hockey to progress. Losing the EPL helps no-one – there needs to be a tiered system right up to EIHL.
We will be looking at our Academy to start getting kids coming up earmarked for Storm. We have some really good talent but we need to keep them focussed on the sport.
RF: I’ve been trying to get Rob Linsmayer for a few years, he was a standout player for Idaho in ECHL. We think we’ve got a diamond there, not quite a Moffat but something in that mould. He’s a proven goal scorer. He had shoulder surgery when he left Idaho so he didn’t have a great year for him last season, didn’t really get going at Gap, but was still almost a point a game. He’ll be doing his MBA at Salford.
We’re also talking to 4 or 5 goalies. We are going to go back with Smith and Ryan as back up, but we’re looking at having a starting goalie and if budget allows, trying to bring in another goalie to push the starter.
We have a good idea where we will end up. The school package is a massive attraction, and the school really likes the guys. The guys this year had top 4 in their class. Storm games are going to stream in the Student Union.
Do you have specific goals for on and off ice?
RF: we want to retain the conference title, and to finish top 4. If we can get in the top 4 in an even league, it will be a good season. We want to go further in the challenge cup. With Manchester finishing above Sheffield and Nottingham, it’s seen as an embarrassment and the big guys get their cheque books out, but our guys love that underdog mentality.
Last year’s team was so tight – a unique and fun bunch. We want that again. For us to be successful, the guys have to enjoy playing hockey. They have Wednesdays off, getting guys away from the rink. Team relationships are built off the ice.
I’m happy we are bringing the nucleus back. Byers retired. We had a retirement practice, retirement drinks, we said goodbye. He went home.
And then he called and said he wasn’t done. He wanted one more year. His whole family loved it here. He’s the guy that steers the ship. Rosehill has retired, he’s signing up with the fire department back home. We may look to fly him back in the New Year to say goodbye. He loved his time here.
We are confident Bakker will be back, we are looking at contracts and school enrolment. He’s a valuable player for us.
Because of our budget, we have to really research players we recruit – we can’t afford to correct mistakes. Our signings may not be big names, or may seem underwhelming, but we’re looking for the guys under the radar, who have had good careers but no breakout year yet like Moffat, or take a chance on guys like Springer, who come to the league unknown but become a key part of the club identity.
Are there any ideas for new merchandise?
RF: Emma Finnerty is in charge of merchandise so there will be a wider range of merchandise, and more merchandise for women. There’s a whole new range coming out late summer, from a sustainability friendly company that has done work for NFL and from some local companies.
Are there going to be different match night entertainment games?
NB: We may extend the first period break by 5 minutes, and will look to forums and twitter for suggestions as to what people want to do, as well as showcase the Academy and Figure Skaters.
Are we going to have a Ladies Night?
RF: Yes. It’s good fun and raises money for the club.
Can you tell us about the Kids Club?
RF: This is an OSC initiative to have functions for kids that players will attend.
Will there be another competition to win the prize of sitting on the bench?
RF: It’s a fun event and easy for us to do, so we’re looking to run that again a couple of times during the season.
With GB playing in May, have the league planned to extend the season?
RF: Playoffs may be a week later but not yet confirmed. There may be a break in January or February, but we won’t know until the fixture meeting.
We’ve asked for a double header in Belfast for cost reasons
Has DOPS had an impact on recruitment?
RF: The league is moving away from tough players, but I’ll always recruit for toughness – it allows guys like Hammond and Beca and Moffat to play their game. It’s important to have in the small rink. When recruiting, no players or agents have asked about the disciplinary process here.
Have season ticket sales increased?
RF: Yes, by 17-18% on last year.
For the preseason games, the ticketing systems don’t allow us to do multi-ticket pricing, so weekend games will be priced at £15/£10/£5. For the midweek game against Fife, pricing will be £10/£5. We’re already in talks with teams for next year – we’d like to make it an annual event and we’d like it to be successful. These games will showcase how our league matches up with European teams, I think people will be surprised.
Don’t forget – 2018/2019 own and loan jerseys are now available. To see whose jersey you can own and loan, click here.