When Mark Thomas arrived with his skates under his arm to start his fledgling Steelers’ career, he walked into a scene of utter chaos.
He’d gone from the frying pan of the folding London Racers into the fire of a club which went through three coaches in one campaign: Paul Heavey, Dennis Maxwell and David Whistle.
On the plus side, his new team-mates included the likes of ‘Rocket’ Ron Shudra and Neil Abel...and he soon felt at home.
This weekend, against Cardiff Devils, Thomas will celebrate 500 games in a Steeler jersey across nine roller coaster seasons.
Thomas initially arrived as a 22-year-old stripling. Now he is a 30-year-old GB defensive regular and his coach Doug Christiansen was happy to lead the praise.
“Mark is an outstanding person” he said. “He comes to the rink with a smile on his face every day. If you are around a club that long with as many coaches as have been here you are proving yourself as valuable not only to your team mates but to the organisation. He is very coachable, I’ve had great experiences with him.”
Thomas said on video at thestar.co.uk: “It will be a great honour to play in my 500th game. I’ve loved every minute of being here for the past nine years. I will be catching Rocket Ron soon! I’d have never believed that I’d be in Sheffield for this long, and I am loving it today as much as the first day I turned up here to play against Belfast Giants. I remember that first game and loved every minute of it!”