GARY Stefan has opened his heart on his failed attempt to return Slough Jets to the English Premier Ice Hockey League.

Jets founder Stefan is part of a new management team that is locked in a bidding war with Zoran Kozic and Slapshot Ltd.

The dispute is over a request for ice time submitted by Stefan two weeks ago and quickly rejected by the club’s owners.

Slapshot has a rental contract with Absolutely Ice until 2017, preventing the rink operator from awarding necessary ice time to run a team independent of the exisiting set-up.

The club, which will drop to National League Two next season, says it will allocate significantly more ice time to junior players as part of a plan to drag UK hockey to the same level as other European countries.

It is a decision that has angered Stefan, whose vision for Slough Jets is to see a senior team compete in the highest possible league.

But in an exclusive interview with the Observer, the Jets stalwart admits time is running out for a deal to be reached.

He explained: “We have looked at the situation and Zoran holds all the cards. We are relying on ice time, but it is not there at the moment.

“I’m not sure where we are able to go with it. We are staggering at the moment and the move could have stalled, but I don’t want to see the club fade away.

“Time is running out for us but who knows. We’re always trying to find a way to get the club back up to playing at the highest level.

“I understand what they are trying to do with the kids, but it’s too bad if something can’t be worked out.

“Every element of our business plan is in place with the league and all of their clubs.

“The EPIHL will welcome us with open arms, as the last thing they want is a league with nine teams putting pressure on their cash flow.” Stefan has challenged Slapshot to restore Jets as a popular brand and recreate a legacy within the community of Slough.

He stressed: “People will not break down doors to come and watch, you’ve to build a brand and we have dwindled over the years.

“It’s about creating a legacy now and rewarding fans who come year in year out, as well as the community of Slough.

“You need a business model to run it like a proper club, not as a toy or plaything like some owners do. People are taking the decision to own ice hockey teams as an ego booster, but you have to work hard at it.

“It is important to develop kids in the UK, but you’ve got to produce these things in the right way and give them the right opportunities.” He stressed: “Kids who play football at school do not aspire to play for Slough Town straight away. They aspire to play for Manchester United and Chelsea.

“They want to play at the highest level and that’s what you need to focus and strive towards.

“If these things can be done then great, but you have got to work hard at it.” Stefan has become frustrated with the politics behind Jets’ fall from grace, but has vowed to return the club to the highest league possible – if given the chance.

He argued: “The club has always been special to me and I don’t like it when politics get in the way. That’s when I get up and say my piece.

“We’re still working in the background for Slough Jets to be playing at the highest level for the town and the community.

“We were a huge part of the community at the rink, in schools and at charity events. These are all important towards the running of a club and helping to unite the community.

“We have dropped off a little bit over the years and it is a sad day, but maybe something will happen. Watch this space. Whatever the highest league is, Slough should be playing in it.

“Jets fans have stuck with us through thick and thin over the years. They deserve more and we’re working towards putting the best possible side out on the rink.

“Ice hockey is the best sport in the world so enjoy it and let the politics go on in the background.” **PICK up a copy of the Observer, out now, for all the latest sports news and action** **FOLLOW the Observer on Twitter at @Observer_sports**