LIGHTNING fans have come up trumps again to ensure the return of top import defenceman Lukas Zatopek for another season.
For many years it has been a tradition for supporters to help pay the wages of one player – most recently it has been Czech Zatopek.
Lightning Supporters Club committee chairman, Dave Bunyan, told members at last week’s annual meeting at the Campanile Hotel, Fenny Stratford, that they were just a little short of the pledges required to re-sign him again.
Within minutes enough fans came forward to offer funding, which allowed player coach Nick Poole to make a swift phone call to Zatopek back in the Czech Republic – and he immediately agreed to return to the city he describes as his second home.
General manager Vito Rausa told the meeting many other clubs in the English Premier League were desperate to sign Zatopek, but he didn’t want to play for any other team than Lightning.
After making his phone call, Poole returned to tell supporters the good news, saying: “Lukas is a very happy man. He wants to say thank you to all the fans who contributed.”
Supporters were also told that goalie Alex Mettam had also signed on for the new campaign.
Following a spell as understudy to Barry Hollyhead, the former Guildford Flames keeper was given a starring role last season, and he did not disappoint between the pipes, producing countless match-winning performances.
Poole said he was more excited about the upcoming season than he had been for the past couple of years.
“For the first time in a long time I still can’t tell you which lines I will play,” he said, hinting that there may be one or two more surprise signings following that of Nick Chinn from Basingstoke Bison – a player Lightning fans have loved to hate over the years.
He spoke of his anguish in making the decision not to offer Michael Wales and Matt Towalski new contracts – both long time members of Lightning’s squad. But both had understood the decisions were made in the interests of the team.
This week Slough Jets announced that Wales will be joining their roster for 2012/13, and few would be surprised if Towalski ends up there as well as he lives in nearby Ruislip, Middlesex.
The news from the annual meeting ended an anxious few weeks for fans who were expecting Mettam to fill the void left by the departure of Sheffield Steeldogs’ Ben Bowns.
Bunyan also reported on another successful year for Lightning with a massive £30,747 raised for the club, which us just a few hundred pounds short of last year’s record-breaking total.
After a number of years of holding membership subscriptions, members have voted to increase the annual adult charge to £10 from £8, with the family fee set at £20. Junior membership will remain at £2.50.
>> Lightning supporters will get the chance to see Chinn in action – along with bench coach, Lewis Clifford, when both play for the UK Firefighters team who take on the British Army Blades at Planet Ice on June 9 at 4.30pm.
The game is being held to raise cash for the Burned Children’s Club charity. Both Chinn and Clifford work for the fire service.