The Head Coach of the Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning has praised the team’s supporters after an opening League weekend of back-to-back games saw a win and a loss against the Sheffield Steelers.
League-wide international visa issues delayed Doug McKay’s travel to the UK by over a month – the same issues which mean defenceman Nelson Armstrong has yet to arrive. But just days after travelling from his native Canada, Coach McKay led his new team to a deserved 3-2 win on the Steelers’ home ice, stunning a capacity 9,200 crowd.
More than 200 Lightning fans made the long journey to Sheffield and chanted, sang and cheered on their team to success as a short-benched Milton Keynes took two points from the five-time Elite League champions.
“Our fans were incredible and this team is incredible,” Coach McKay told BBC 3 Counties Radio on Monday. “The fans were passionate, vocal, loyal and very supportive. I heard them making noise all night – even though I was busy coaching!
“Sheffield have a deeper squad than us, they’re a big arena team – so I’m proud of our effort. Any time you can play a team like that, back-to-back, and split the points, it’s a successful weekend.”
McKay’s summer recruitment included four former Steelers – Tim Wallace, Andreas Valdix, Eric Neiley and Cole Shudra (loan) – with Valdix and Neiley both scoring against their old team on Saturday.
“They recruited well, they have that beautiful big arena and we’re fortunate to now have four of their players,” continued Doug McKay. Our players really enjoyed the atmosphere, it was a really nice game for both teams.”
In this next stage of a career which has seen him coach in North America’s NHL, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy, Coach McKay is now beginning to settle into life in Buckinghamshire and getting to know his team. “I’ve talked to them all, right through the summer – everyone including our great fans, sponsors and the owners met them before me!
“It was quite an adventure – 40 days delay without a visa and passport – it was an unconventional start! But they’re a good group, they knew they had to pull together and train hard. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise!”
Lightning’s season continues this Saturday with a home Challenge Cup fixture against local rivals Coventry Blaze, followed by the long trip to South Wales on Sunday to face Cardiff Devils. Tickets for Saturday’s match are on sale now from mk-lightning.co.uk/tickets or call 01908 540020.