Hockey on the field: Scott Neil and the forgotten tradition of Hogmanay

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Many traditions come and go in existence, and the annual hockey tradition of seeing the Fife Flyers play the Edinburgh Capitals may have been short-lived, but seeing them was competitive and exciting.

That’s the opinion of former Capitals general manager Scott Neil, who supervised the planning of the annual game between 2011 and 2017 when it was held at the Murrayfield Ice Arena, and who was looked forward to by fans.

“The Hogmanay games with the Fife Flyers were our biggest games of the year,” said Neil. They were games we planned hard for, right at the beginning of the season. Financially and emotionally, both teams tried to win them in the best way to end the old year.

Since the players liked playing in them, they were always fantastic games. We had a lot of fans as well and it was such an enjoyable thing to be part of. Fife’s rivalry goes back a long way, but it seemed to go a little further this time.

“Edinburgh is a special place on New Year’s Eve, and I think the fans liked the early kickoff, which was at 2 p.m., and then the festivities after watching the field hockey game,” he said.

“Thinking back, I think it was me who came up with the idea.  We had discussions with the management and the team and because New Year’s Eve is such a special day, we wanted to make something of it,” he said.

“Edinburgh is a busy city on that day so we thought it would be a good idea and it would catch on, which it did very quickly.”

After being displaced from their home by the Murrayfield Racers, who were awarded the contract for ice time at the cost of the Caps, the Capitals left the league in 2018, rendering them uncompetitive.

As a result, Neil, the former Capitals player and, ironically, the Racers before him, found himself without a club. He has dabbled in a few business interests since, but he has never spoken of the circumstances surrounding the demise of the Capitals. He admits, however, that the Hogmanay game is missing.

“The Edinburgh-Fife games were always great events in their own way.  It was often good field hockey, played by players who have played in top-flight leagues around the world. That’s something I certainly miss when I look back, but time has moved on.”

In the seven Hogmanay matches between the entry of the Flyers into the EIHL and the exit of Edinburgh, Fife claimed six of them and enjoyed bragging rights over their rivals in Forth, but Neil preferred to think of them as competitions of decent quality.

“There was no game that particularly stood out for me,” he said. They were all good and enjoyable, and I think Fife won most of them, looking back. I recall winning at least one of them, but they were all well contested by the Capitals.

“We made a game of it and made them work so that the fans could enjoy it even when we were on a losing streak and a Flyers win was predicted. It also seemed like the players would get into the game, which helped make it what it was.

“I also have to give credit to Fife for their role in the game.  The fans, the players and the management were all in and did their part. It takes two teams to create an event like this and they helped.  The atmosphere was always good, there was good interaction and it brought a lot of fans together.”

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