An aggressive defenceman who Steelers fans have previously loved to hate will patrol the Sheffield defensive zone next season.
Zack Fitzgerald, the 220lb enforcer, has signed a one-year contract.
It was only last season that Fitzgerald, 29, infuriated Steelers fans in a match at Braehead Clan, when he attacked debutant Danny Bois, the new boy offering little resistance as the 6’2 rival felled him. The League later ruled Bois was an ‘unwilling combatant’ banning him for two games.
Steeler Cullen Eddy, a former team-mate of Fitzgerald, was critical of the attack, but over a season there is no doubt that the Clan man was a deterrent for anyone approaching the Scots’ goal.
He took 344 penalty minutes in 52 games for Braehead. And, as one of the tough men of the league, he is bound to be a big enough character to attract a large Arena fan following.
Fitzgerald was a third round pick in the 2003 NHL entry draft for St Louis Blues. He went on to play 478 AHL league and play off games.
Thompson said: “The one dynamic we needed was a Zack Fitzgerald. I went hard after Zack. He is a perfect fit for us. He has experience, character and leadership skills. He knows his role - to keep other players honest. More importantly it is to allow our skilled players to play with freedom and I am sure they will be happy when they look around the locker room and see that he’s one of them. Zack will log a lot of minutes for us, it wasn’t just his toughness that ticked the box’s for me. It is his all round game and presence that I like.”
Fitzgerald commented: “Why Sheffield? It’s a good direction for me and my hockey career.
“The Steelers are known as the best organisation and a winning one as well. I want to be part of a team that competes for trophies every year.
“When I spoke with Paul Thompson I liked his attitude. He was excited for me to join the team. As a player you like to feel wanted and he made me feel that way. Paul explained what he expected from me. I think the way our D is coming together I fit in well. Paul knows my style of play and that’s what he wants from me.
“It’s bitter-sweet leaving Braehead where I had such a great time and met so many fantastic people. We had a great year last season and went so close. I have great respect for everyone associated with the Clan, the fans were incredible to me.”