The season, like winter, has come to an end for us all at the Pirates, and just like the seasonal change in to Spring so we are entering a period of new growth and re-birth. We decided to take an opportunity to speak with Pirates owner Shane Smith for a bit of a Q&A session in order to draw a line under the 2017/18 season and mark the start of the 2018/19 season for us all.

When we met up the sky was crystal blue in Hull and there was a warmth in the air which made a pleasant change from the recent frost and snow. We got ourselves a large coffee, settled down and got straight into it.

Thanks for joining us today Shane, it was a difficult start to the season following the collapse of the EPL, do you think the format is right, if not how would you alter it?

I’m not convinced it’s right at the moment, but now everyone has played each other and knows what the standard is at the top I honestly believe that a lot of the teams will come back better. I quite like the elite league conference system personally, I feel that it helps clubs that aren’t as big as others have achievable goals for the season and not just be playing for a playoff spot. 

Looking back over the season are you satisfied with how it has gone?

Definitely not! I honestly believe that we should have come away with something. We had an all British team that pushed everyone hard and one that I believe we can be proud of and we had the talent to achieve good things and bring home some silverware.

The vision of an all British team was a bold move. What was the thinking behind it, and is it a move that paid off?

I honestly felt with the team we had we could win something, and for it to be an all British team it would be massively special. I think the team did themselves proud but the difference in the end in the last 2 competitions was the finishing and experience of the imports. I believe that we have built a massive foundation from it to move forward as we’ve got a very young team which is something most seem to forget.

Are we likely to see imports on the roster next season?

Yes. There is no doubt about that at all.

Where do you think we could have been better during the season?

Initially I think we weren’t as focused as we should have been in a few areas and it cost us. That said, when your use to playing on pads with normal ice and glass, Solihull and Blackburn were initial shocks and they use their home rink to their advantage and it took us a few games to get used to it.

There's been a lot of talk around the goaltending situation, what is your view about it?

Jason signed Ashley to be the starting keeper at start of season but by mid-summer it became apparent Storm were looking at him. We started looking for another keeper immediately but all the top guys had been signed. In late July Storm came and offered Ash a contract that we all felt he should take, even though we knew it would give us a big headache.

We can only thank Ryan (Finnerty) for his support at the start by allowing us to have Ash when Brown was struggling to get to training due to work, but slowly it all took a massive toll on Ashley as he was doing far too much. When Adam (Long) became available we jumped at the chance to sign him as we knew we needed stability. I feel Adam did a great job generally, but we just didn’t manage to finish things off in the end, and that’s why Jason decided to put Ash in for the playoffs. This situation will not happen again as we will have a starting netminder who is with us 100% from the start of next year.

There's been some great performances over the season, which one stands out for you and why?

To be fair to the guys I’ve missed quite a few games through being with Aaron at his games. However the final game at home against Telford, to me, was the best game all season. It was a great game where everyone put everything on the line and was nail biting from start to finish. It’s a shame we lost Chilly on the Saturday which was a massive loss to the team over the 2 legs and pushed the guys at the back to the limit.

Hewitt's transition from player to coach is an ongoing process, do you think he is the person to lead the Pirates organisation?

Yes definitely.

He’s a massively respected player all round, you can’t disregard what he has achieved and been a part of over the years. I think that we, as a team, missed his leadership as a player this year, it’s different being player coach to being just a player. Jason is new at this and I’ve seen him watch and learn and adapt all season which shows he will only get better.

Who has been the stand out player for you this season and why?

 I think it’s really hard to name one to be honest.

To be fair you cannot take away what Matty and Hewitt have done this season. The defence has battled hard, especially after losing Haywood for a long stint. A lot of the guys I’ve mentioned give you that game all the time as does Archer who was massive at the end of the season. However, Sam Towner to me gives you everything every game every shift and will do anything for the team and is definitely up for player of the season in my eyes.

Following the recent disappointments what was your message to the players should they want to sign next season?

I’ve said that I feel that we were complacent at the start and not as fit as I feel they should have been, this will not be the case next year. Whoever we sign needs to be ready for what’s coming as we will be contending for everything, and coming away with nothing will not be an option!

 What are your hopes and aspirations for next season?

As an organisation we had no idea what to expect this year. We’re through it now and know where things stand, we will get back to what we need to do and continue building our club. As a team we all felt the pain at the end and whatever we compete in we are going to be 100% ready for every competition from the off!

Do you see the organisation changing in any way, if so, how?

Yes I feel that we can now breathe again this summer and put things back in place to build and move forward knowing what the future holds. We have to remember we only had weeks to get everything in place for the start of this season, where as we have all summer now. We want to make things bigger and better for the fans and the sponsors. We have already started preparations for next year and hope that everything will fall into place ready for the season that will hopefully end the lack of trophies in Hull.

If you could sign any player from this year’s league, outside of our team, who would it be?

I think, for me, I would sign people like Towner in a heartbeat as they wear their heart on their sleeve and give you everything every night. Away from the Pirates; Ben Morgan. He’s a great guy and one hell of a competitor on the ice. He’s all about the team and will put his body on the line every single night!

If you had to outline a plan for the next 3 years what would it be?

Losing the EPL was a massive set back in our plans, I want us to be the best club and organisation we can for the city, the fans and sponsors. Ultimately I want to take the Pirates into the Elite League in the near future. But we have to have everything in place from fans in the building to sponsors and more structure in our organisation.

What would your message be to our fans and sponsors?

I can only thank everyone for their support through this season. Believe me, we are feeling the pain of coming out empty handed this season, but it will change this year. This I know! When you see the hurt in the players, and that look in their eyes, after being close and getting nothing, you know they’re coming back bigger, better, faster and stronger. They all know we should have won something, and seeing how devastated they were, and knowing the lads in that room, they won’t let it happen again!

We are already in the process of sorting things to make things better for next year, from the match night experience to merchandise availability, everything will be better. Season tickets will be announced over the next few weeks along with signings, which we will start announcing soon.

 We will also be announcing several events over the summer including a shirt launch and a chance to meet the players. So keep your eyes on the Pirates ship as we get ready to sail into the 18/19 season!

Thank you once again one and all for your support.