The generation game comes to Sheffield Steelers

In the heat of CHL battle: Sheffield Steelers v Frolunda Indians 05/09/15
In the heat of CHL battle: Sheffield Steelers v Frolunda Indians 05/09/15

When Rod Sarich lined up for his first match with Sheffield Steelers in 2005, he could never have guessed that one day he’d be playing alongside the son of one of his team-mates.

Yesterday, evergreen defenceman Sarich was registered as one of the roster to take part in the Champions Hockey League matches in August and September - despite the fact he’d ‘retired’ only a few weeks earlier.

And the team that he re-joins will include none other than Cole Shudra, offspring of the venerable Ron, who remains the biggest fan favourite of all time at the club.

The 17-year-old chip-off-the-block will be given his chance to shine on the Arena stage this season, along with Liam Kirk.

And the irony is not lost on veteran Sarich, who is looking forward to watching the pair develop over years to come.

“Time flies” acknowledged Sarich, when asked about his debut season in a Steeler team containing fourth-top scorer Shudra, (now aged 48) and the likes of Neil Able, Jason Hewitt, Mark Thomas, Mark Dutiaume and Kent Simpson.

Cole Shudra gazes up at the Arena rafters

Cole Shudra gazes up at the Arena rafters

“I suppose it makes me feel old but it is great for the Shudra family, Steelers and the sport to see Cole, Liam and other youngsters, coming through.

“The first time I saw Cole last season I thought ‘Holy Smokes, he’s got a lot bigger’

“I just hope he enjoys the sport and turns into a great player like his Dad.”

Sarich, 35, can’t wait to take on Swedish side HV71 and Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg, and thinks their styles will be similar to Frölunda Gothenburg, whom they faced last year in the CHL. “There was a gulf in some ways between us and them last year, a lot has to do with the fact we are playing them before the regular season has begun.

“We don’t have the time to get as fit and conditioned as teams like that do, but there is no getting away from the fact that they have a lot of more very skilled players. We played Red Bull a few years ago in the Continental Cup, they had fast-paced, high-tempo game and that’s what we can expect to come up against, again, this time round.

“It is tough jumping straight into games against teams with such quality, we’re diving into the deep end. But we always give it everything we have got and we’ll be hoping to get some success out of the games.”

n Sarich and ‘Rockey Ron’ Shudra both played 44 games for Steelers in 2005-6. Shudra scored one more goal and tow more assists than his younger counterpart. Much of the interesting activity took place off the ice, with Paul Heavey, Dennis Maxwell and Dave Whistle all appointed head coach at some time of the campaign.