So off to Belarus we go - what a trip, what a test and what opponents we face, especially the hosts Minsk. Full of KHL talent, playing in a fantastic 9000 seat facility.
Can we win it? Hell why not! We certainly don’t go into the four-team tournament favourites. Minsk are that.
We will certainly give the ball a kick and what an incentive. The CHL confirmed only yesterday that should the Steelers win the Cup we will qualify for the Champions Hockey League next year – that decision doesn’t apply to all four clubs taking part.
That’s how far the Elite League and domestic club competition has come in the UK, where the CHL are encouraging more British clubs in their competition. The CHL is where we all want to be and this Steelers team has an opportunity to be the first club making the rankings for next August.
If we are to succeed I would suggest it will go down as one of our finest hours and greatest achievements. We are playing proper clubs and our travel is beyond horrible, I’m typing this at 9pm Tuesday in the coach’s flat. Won’t be going to bed tonight, we are leaving from iceSheffield at 1.30am for the coach down to Gatwick. It will be a day of travelling. The early start means at least we have a full day in Minsk before game one on Friday. Don’t ever say that our guys have it easy. I tip my hat to them all.
Touch down, eat, sleep, get up and skate in the day leading up to game one. Then video, meetings and more sleep before that first on Friday evening. Game two on Saturday evening and then after arriving back at the hotel at midnight they will be up at 8am to eat before leaving for the rink no late than 10am for a lunchtime third game in as many days. Have a drop of that schedule, Jose Mourinho, with no rotation of players. No bringing new guys in if we lose a guy to injury.
Every time I go away on these trips I come back with more admiration for the players, I’m exhausted and all I do is type and commentate. They will play injured, play hurt and give their all. In Denmark there were hundreds of Steelers fans present. I’m not expecting that many in Minsk, the logistics to get there make it expensive and difficult.
It’s a great experience, a great chance to play in different conditions, under circumstances that are stacked against us. When we come back from our European adventure we will have to get our head down and concentrate on domestic competition. Clubs will have played many of their games in hand whilst we are away and that will most likely see the Steelers drop a few places in the standings, something we aren’t used to. Don’t panic Mr Mainwarng, there is a lot of hockey to play. Also of course the Challenge Cup, Cardiff and Guildford play the second leg of their quarter final this midweek. It’s 3-3 after the first leg and the Devils haven’t had the best of time playing the Flames so far. The winner will play the Steelers in the semi finals. I don’t care what results have happened to date, this is a proper game, a money game and Cardiff will win it.
My prediction is that the semi final between the Devils and Steelers will see the winners of the competition – the semi final will be the Challenge Cup Final.
Last year after winning this event Nottingham’s season took a dive, they fell off the rails. I don’t get that feeling with the Steelers. I think we have already had our bump in the road. I think we will come back stronger and tighter as a group – Roll on Minsk, lets do it for Queen and country!