Paisley Daily Express
A NEW HOME AND ERA BEGAN FOR THE PIRATES
With the future of Paisley Pirates currently hanging in the balance due to the uncertainty surrounding Braehead Arena, club stalwart and media guru Bill Elliot has produced a twopart feature looking back on the history of the club.
This second installment looks back on how the team started 2005 without a home having just won the Scottish Cup.
The situation appeared hopeless, although for several months Pirates continued to keep faith by playing their away matches.
But it was clear that without home ice on which to play games to gather spectator admission revenue, and to practice and train, this was a sticking plaster applied to a problem which needed major surgery.
The players bravely played on, but took a number of heavy defeats in the process, sometimes going weeks without training, while the cost of travelling to the north of England was quickly draining the limited financial resources left to the club.
However, in November 2006, at the point where the club committee had reluctantly come to the conclusion that they couldn’t continue, the situation was resolved literally at the last minute.
The management of Braehead Arena agreed to install the required ice to allow ice activities to recommence, albeit it would take until February 2007 for the process to be completed.
Prior to that opening night, thousands of tickets were given away under supervision to local schools and community groups, and on the night a massive crowd - still a Scottish National League record attendance of 2,446 - watched Pirates beat Aberdeen Lynx 15-2 to open the new era in style.
In addition, while they had missed most of the regular season, they still had time to win the Spring Cup, beating Dundee Tigers 15-8 on aggregate in front of another four-figure crowd and having recorded a number of large attendances during intervening matches en route to that cup winning night.
In the summer of 2007, there was a new ice hockey league formed comprising teams from Scotland and the north of England, not to mention a team from Northern Ireland.
This league comprised players of a higher standard than that which Pirates had been used to for a few years, allowing a limited number of imports and with British trained players mostly playing at a higher level than the Scottish League.
Pirates certainly had the aspirations to play on a higher plane, but unfortunately their hopes were not matched by results in this respect, and for the next three years they struggled badly under new management, with wins few and far between, while crowds dwindled as spectators, fed on a diet of regular defeats, slowly drifted away.
Eventually, the club was once again on the point of going under at the end of the 09/10 season, before new management, in the form of the Turley family from Erskine, took over the reins.
The club had no money, no strips and their residency at Braehead was in some doubt.
But with help from various corners, not the least of these being Renfrewshire Council who provided the club with last minute grant aid, the club was dragged away from the brink and took its place in the Scottish National League in September 2010.
Player-coach Ian Turley assembled a new team from scratch, taking the remnants of the disbanded side from the unsuccessful previous three seasons and augmenting them with exciting new talent and returning players from previous spells.
Two runners up positions in their first two seasons could be regarded as a success for a club who nearly didn’t make it at all.
The re-building continued, the club
got stronger as word got about that the Paisley Pirates put on a good show, and in the third season, 2012-13, the club got its reward for several years of hard work when on a memorable night they defeated Belfast Giants 17-6 at Braehead Arena to clinch their first league title since their inaugural season twenty years earlier in 1992-93.
That gave the success-starved fans, at least in recent times, something to celebrate.
The club continued to consolidate its position in a league which was more within its comfort zone, and off-ice awards began to come the way of the club. It picked up a ‘Team of the Year’ trophy, with the coach picking up a ‘Coach of the Year’ award and the secretary winning a ‘ Volunteer of the Year’ accolade.
That showed that Pirates were getting it right off the ice as well, and in 2016 they won the Scottish Cup with a 9-0 demolition of Edinburgh.
The following year, they won the Scottish League title again, although they could never quite get their hands on the play-off title, which appeared to escape their grasp in an almost annual disappointment.
However, having failed to win it in years when they started as the team most likely to, in season 2018-19 they started very definite second favourites against Murrayfield Racers who had in that year swept all before them.
In a never to be forgotten final in Dundee, the underdogs recorded an amazing 5-0 whitewash, lifting the trophy for the first time as they belied the statistics.
Indeed, due to prevailing circumstances, they remain the current holders of the trophy.
Because of the pandemic, and like all other activities, ice hockey terminated before the end of the following season in February 2020 did not take place in season 2020-21 at all, so Paisley Pirates remain play-off Champions.
In normal circumstances (if you can call a pandemic normal) Pirates, like most other ice hockey teams, would be anticipating a return to activities in a few months’ time.
However, due to the current uncertainty over the future of the Braehead Arena, they, the Glasgow Clan, and a whole host of other ice- related clubs await the outcome of discussions between the Clan and Global Mutual.
They will determine not just if Clan can take ownership of the ice rink and preserve the status of all ice users, but whether the Paisley Pirates have a future beyond their 75th year.