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1990's Summary

 1990's Summary - Sustained Success

A decade which started with demotion turned into the most successful in Fife Flyers' entire history.

The rollerocaster ride began with a shock relegation to Division One in 1990/91 -- the first time Fife had ever been dumped out of the top flight.

As seasons go it was a disaster as the club tried to rekindle its Czech experiment only to abandon it after the Autumn Cup, and returning to bump and grid North American hockey. The directors were forced to publicly quash rumours of a rink closure as the team floundered at the bottom of the table, winning just eight games in 36 starts.

The relegation play-offs were just as painful, and the team slipped out of the Premier League. The directors pledged to back one year in Division One -- meaning the stakes were high as former Cardiff coach Brian Kanewischer built his own team, led by former Ayr imports Frank Morris and Richard Laplante and featuring the inspirational Cal Brown on D.

Flyers stormed the minor league, taking the title ahead of Slough Jets and then endured an epic, nailbiting all-or-nothing play-off showdown with Ayr Raiders who, themselves, were homeless and on the verge of extinction. Fife won the first leg 8-5 and led by an aggregate of five in the return at the Summit Centre in Glasgow when Raiders staged a stunning fightback. The capacity crowd could barely watch as Fife held out to win by a solitary goal. They went up. Ayr folded.

Kanewischer wanted to continue the job in the Premier League but was replaced by Jim Lynch who steered Fife to eighth place in trying circumstances. He lost Brown, his team captain, to a career ending head injury in meaningless challenge game in Billingham before the campaign got underway. It was a tough year.

But, having re-established the team's credentials in a rapidly changing league, Lynch then raised the stakes. In 1993/94 he signed Doug Smail straight from the NHL -- the first player to move from ''The Show'' straight into British hockey. A veteran of some 800 NHL games with Quebec, Minnesota and Ottowa, his electrifying speed and stunning skills were perfectly complemented by Mark Morrison, a former New York Ranger captured from Italian hockey. With Ryan Kummu dominating on D Fife started to perform and entertain as only they can, finishing runners-up in the league and making a long overdue return to Wembley where they were beaten semi-finalists.

Morrison returned the following season which was to be blighted by injuries, and only a late return from Smail, this time accompanied by old NHL mate Laurie Boschman -- 1000 games and 2000 PIMs in the NHL -- rallied spirits. Fife finished sixth.

Season 1995/96 witnessed further changes as Lynch moved on and Fife brought back the much loved Ron Plumb as head coach. A standing ovation on his first game underlined the high regard in which he was held, but it was to be a short-lived and unsuccessful homecoming.

A clearly under-performing Fife scraped through the Autumn Cup qualifiers, and it was clear action had to be taken. Plumb stepped down, Morrison stepped up ... and a whole new chapter began in the club's history.

Mo's first game in charge was against Sheffield, live on TV in the Benson & Hedges Cup semi-finals. It was ''The Braveheart Game'' when tartan-clad Fife fans turned the rink into a mini-Hampden and roared Fife to a first leg victory.

Morrison began his first full season as coach with Fife but in a very different league and with new bosses. Ownership of the team passed into the hands of four local businessman, Tom Muir, Tom Muir Senior, Jack Wishart and John Waring.

Hockey also fragmented. The arena-based teams broke way to form the Super League, and those left behind made the most of life in regionalised leagues.

Flyers breezed to the NPL title and then lost the British championship final to the short lived Dream team, Swindon Ice Lords at the MEN Arena in Manchester -- the 1000 strong Fife support put many Super League followings to shame.

North and south reunited for the 1997/98 campaign under the banner of the British National League. Fife finished mid table but they did make the semi-finals of the championship play-offs at Hull.

That was a taste of what was to come.

In 1998/99 Flyers celebrated their Diamond Jubilee in spectacular style, clinching the British play-off crown after a sudden death penalty shoot-out with Slough Jets -- John Coyle netted their strike, and Joe Watkins denied Derek Higdon to spark astonishing scenes of jubilation. Just 48 hours later over 1500 fans turned up for the biggest hockey party the rink has ever staged.

And things got even better ...

Season 1999/2000 saw Morrison assemble arguably one of the greatest ever Fife teams and steer it to an incredible Grand Slam -- the league, the championship play-off crown, the NTL Cup, and a fifth Scottish Cup.

He was named Coach of the Year for a third time, while awesome Canadian forward Russell Monteith shattered the club's decade old powerplay goalscoring record, netting 38 to earn his place in the history books.

To find out more about the Flyers teams in the 90s, click on the year you want to see. This is very much a work in progress, so bear with us!

Annual summaries, and statistics compiled and written by Allan Crow.

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