MAY is normally a busy month behind the scenes for Gareth Chalmers and the ongoing uncertainty around sport hasn’t changed that a huge amount.

The start of British ice hockey’s off-season is traditionally a time for forward planning and, with the new Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) campaign provisionally set to start in October, Glasgow Clan’s chief operating officer has been putting plans in place to ensure he and the team are ready for when that weekend rolls around.

As well as looking to sign players, Chalmers is also midway through the process of recruiting a new head coach following Zack Fitzgerald’s departure last month.

The logistics of that are naturally more complicated with travel off the agenda for the foreseeable future but Chalmers revealed the Braehead-based outfit are making solid progress on both fronts.

“We’re still working away busy as ever as we would in any off-season,” he said. “It might look as if it’s all quiet but it’s still pretty manic behind the scenes.

“Obviously there are lots of different variables to get our heads around this year but you just have to plan on the assumption that the league will return in October.

“Agents are still sending players around and we’re still active on that front looking to recruit. Our main aim at the moment is trying to finalise the appointment of a new head coach.

“We’ve had more than 30 applications already and we know what we want. We’ve got feelers out on a couple of targets and we hope to have answers relatively soon. The process has been delayed a bit by the changing world around us but the sooner we can get someone in the sooner we can start to finalise our team.”

The outbreak of the coronavirus meant last season finished prematurely, with the league declared null and void and the end-of-season play-offs also cancelled.

The EIHL have now come up with an alternative and inventive plan to begin the new season in similar fashion, bringing all 10 clubs together in Nottingham for what’s been dubbed a “Magic 5” weekend of derby matches.

“It’s helpful that we’ve got a start date to work towards,” added Chalmers. “It’s been moved back a month but it gives everyone in the league a focus for planning ahead.

“The play-off finals are imperative for the operation of the league as it provides so much revenue so we’ve replaced it with the Magic 5. It’s something we had actually been talking about for a while and this is a great time to introduce it.

“If it goes ahead it will be like a celebration of having hockey back. And it could become a permanent fixture in the calendar if it all works out.

“The world around us is going to change so much and it’s going to be about the survival of the fittest. Organisations that can adapt to these circumstances and think outside the box will be the ones that survive.”

Like everyone else, the Clan have been impacted financially by the cancellation of late-season home games and the play-offs. They have looked to mitigate a loss of between £100,000 and £150,000 by placing members of staff on furlough and Chalmers admits the timing has been fortunate in some ways.

“It’s been a really tough time for every sports organisation, catastrophic in a way,” he added. “But luckily for us it came towards the end of our season. If it had happened last October or November, it could have been devastating for the club.

“We’ve been able to adapt and if we can get through the summer – and we’re quite positive about that – then we can start breathing a little bit easier. We’ve got good ownership who back us which is a big help.”

Their loyal fanbase are doing their bit, too. Regular Saturday night broadcasts of classic matches have kept supporters entertained, while 50:50 draws and other online competitions have also kept revenue streams flowing.

“Engagement with fans is very important,” added Chalmers. “The season obviously finished prematurely but people still want to see hockey so the live streams of old games help on that front.

“It’s important to keep in touch with your fanbase and ours have been great in supporting us and helping bring some money into the club.

“We’re hoping to launch season tickets pretty soon on the basis that we’re starting in October. We understand it’s a difficult time for many people with money so we won’t start taking payments until September. And at that point we will know if we can fulfil what we’re setting out to do.”

Playing behind closed doors is a non-starter for a sport so heavily reliant on ticket sales. Chalmers hopes the Clan will be back playing in front of full houses later in the year but knows it may take some time before live sport returns to normal.

“Some people think interest in bigger audience live sports might dwindle for a period of time once it comes back because of the uncertainty,” he added. “But I believe that when we come out of this situation people are going to be desperate to see sport and be entertained again. We just have to make sure it’s safe for everyone to do so.”