The future of homegrown ice hockey players is safe, says Sheffield Steelers GB veteran Jonathan Phillips.
With fears of increasing import/EU passport holders taking jobs off young Brits, some in the game fear the worst for academy players.
So Phillips met some of the Lasers, Rapiers, Stormers and Swampfrogs skaters at the club’s Sports Bar recently to help celebrate the four championships won by junior clubs at iceSheffield. “We have to encourage kids as much as we can” said the winger.
“If we make the kids good enough then they’ll make it into the pro ranks whatever the import numbers are.
“Ron Shudra thinks many of these lads will become Steelers one day. These are the fun days for those lads. Playing hockey with your mates, travelling on team bus.
“I’ve been lucky that I have been able to continue playing the sport I love and hanging around with 18 mates. If they work hard they will have the same opportunities I did.”
Phillips added: “All of us older players must put back where we can. Having Ron coaching local kids is great, they can learn off no one better than he. His is a great teacher. He knows that he only has to ask and we will help him in any way we can.”
Steelers legend Shudra is now heavily involved with the coaching of the youngsters at the Sheffield Academy with his own kids playing on teams.
“I remember what it was like growing up just wanting to play. I looked up at the NHL and had dreams. I was lucky. I managed, if only for a short time, to play in Edmonton and then had a great professional career afterwards. Its no different today, these kids look to the likes of the Steelers and one day they want to play at the arena in front of 8000 fans.
“They see guys like Jonno, Jason Hewitt and Rob Dowd and can relate to them. They have seen what hard work they put it in and what it takes to reach the top. It was great that the Steelers invited us down to the sports bar, we need more participation between all sides and it seems that the club are happy to help me and the kids in anyway they can which is great for the future.”