SIMMS ON STEELERS: Supporting cast doing vital work

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Who is the star of the Sheffield Steelers? Jeff Legue, Rod Sarich or Ryan Finnerty are all good choices; they’re of course the headline catchers, the names that the pretty girls wear on the back of their replica shirts.

But let me throw a couple of other names at you - Mark Thomas and Jason Hewitt, two players who sometimes go under the radar.

They’re liked and recognised but without the glitz and glamour of the Legue’s of this world.

I mention their names as the Elite League confirmed this week that Mark Thomas is the current Iron Man of the league have played 559 games while Hewitt is third just seven games behind.

To win a league title you need many ingrediences and, of course, your top-scoring superstars such as Legue, Corry Pecker, Colin Shields and Ashley Tait are vital but let’s not forget the supporting cast, the ever presents, the guys turning out week in week out, playing hurt, blocking shots and doing the dirty work.

I have said before that the arrival of Thomas and Hewitt, under the coaching spell of Dennis Maxwell, was a huge turning point for the club. A couple of hard nosed, rough around the edges British players coming into a North American dressing room and becoming an integral part of it.

The duo have been joined by others who have followed suit, namely captain Jonathan Phillips, Ashley Tait, Lee Esders and now Danny Meyers and Danny Wood. When new imports arrive in Sheffield in August it will be down to such players as Thomas and Hewitt to show what is expected of them, playing for the Steelers.

To be the Iron Man in any league is a great compliment, to play more games than any other player in the sports history is something that Thomas and Hewitt, can wear on their sleeve with pride.

Steelers will confirm their 2012-13 fixture list next Monday and will start with pre-season challenge games over the weekend of September 1 and 2 with the league season commencing on the 8th with a home opener at the Motorpoint Arena.

The club and the Arena seem to be at long last developing a strong working relationship more of which will become apparent close to the start of the season. It may have taken 21 years but at last it seems to be here and that can only benefit the arena, the sport and the Steelers.

Ryan Finnerty arrives back in Sheffield next Monday with three players still to sign ahead of the start of the season. Two forwards and one big D man are still required to complete the roster with Finnerty now playing the waiting game before making last minute pick ups once the European market in Italy, Germany, Austria and Denmark has closed.