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Simmsey column: Sheffield Steelers’ lads did our nation proud in Pool A-bound Great Britain ice hockey team

Ben O'Connor - wins best defenceman and widest smile award
Ben O'Connor - wins best defenceman and widest smile award

I don’t think we can start anywhere else other than the heroic performances from Team Great Britain last week.

Led by our own captain Jonathan Phillips the national side set new standards in delivering promotion to Pool A. This time next year our boys will be battling it out with the likes of Canada, United States, Sweden, Finland and Russia. How exciting!

The Steelers boys did their duty. Not only the captain who will surely go down as not only our greatest leader but also our country’s. Back-to-back promotions, a decade wearing the GB uniform Jonathan Phillips is a unique athlete, leader and person. A credit to his family and to our club.

Ben O’Connor was named defencemen of the tournament, Davey Phillips was again reliable, solid and inspirational. Robert Dowd led from the front scoring goals including the important first in that final game against Hungary. Young Liam Kirk started game one on the bench, by Game 2 was on a regular shift and created and made chances for others all week. What a year that young man has had, and it’s not over yet. NHL draft still to come.

When you see the performances they all gave, when you know how much it meant to each and every one of them you can’t help but be proud of our lads.

Promotion to Pool A is a massive achievement and can not be underestimated. These blokes have given our sport a huge chance, a huge boost. One we must grasp, encourage and push ahead with.

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips

I haven’t seen too much written about the Elite League’s role in what happened last week. The EIHL is everybody’s whipping boy, the object of every cheap poke by those who know no better. When anything goes wrong, blame the Elite League. It’s wrong and last week the league proved that.

The EIHL has given these players a platform to perform. The league has grown into a four line league, the same as international hockey. It’s played at a speed of international hockey.

No longer are places handed out on club teams to players who just happen to be British. There is competition for places like never before. That competition means a different breed of player with a different mentality to many who previously thought they had a divine right. Those guys on the national side have grafted, each and every one of them. Grafted for their club place then grafted for the minutes they strive for in their club team. That has been a massive part of elevating their game and their collective good in order that the national team can push ahead.

It will be down to the EIHL as well to ensure that the team taking to the ice in Pool A next season is prepared and ready. The period of time from our own season ending to the World Championships Pool A starting is over a month. That period of time needs proper structuring.

Edinburgh was the other talking point this week. You will recall that the Edinburgh Capitals were turfed out of their rink by a new organisation wanting to re-form the Murryfield Racers. The rink wanted the Racers and awarded them the ice time contract. So the Cap’s were no more. The Racers applied to join the Elite League but were this week turned down.

Where does this leave the league? 11 teams? The hope the Caps can re-surface either in Edinburgh or elsewhere? Or a new 12th team? I guess there is a lot going on around the scenes right now and the answer to that question confirmed once the league have decided.

Next week you may start to see the core of the Steelers side for 2018-19, the first announcement of the summer since the club confirmed recent end of season departures.

The re-building and re-structuring for the side for next season is taken a huge amount of work but there is a plan and it’s starting to come to fruition.

Exciting times, exciting summer, until next week...