Sheffield Steeler ice hockey skipper returns for 13th season

Jonathan Phillips 'Sheffield Steelers 2017-18 season 'Picture: Dean Woolley
Jonathan Phillips 'Sheffield Steelers 2017-18 season 'Picture: Dean Woolley

In years to come Jonathan Phillips will be talked about as a Steelers captain in a way that none of his predecessors have been – and remember there have been a few outstanding people and players to have worn the “C” on the breast of their shirt.

He is a guaranteed, nailed on candidate to see his shirt retired to the Arena rafters and surely he will be inducted into the British Hall of Fame after his eventual retirement.

Therefore the confirmation that he would be returning for a 13th season is something we should celebrate and be grateful for.

Steelers announcement on Tuesday also confirmed those British players (and Mathieu Roy) who are presently under contract and returning to Sheffield Ice next August.

Sheffield boast the finest selection of British talent both established and the new wave coming through the ranks. Ben O’Connor Davey Phillips, Robert Dowd alongside Phillips are key, core leaders on the team.

Steelers will most likely lose Liam Kirk to North America this summer but in the likes of Cole Shudra and Kieran Brown we have youngsters who in a year or so will be ready willing and able to carry on the work done by their elders at the present time.

Don’t think for a moment that the wave of youngsters has ended either, it hasn’t. I believe that at least one more apprentice will be confirmed shortly as well as other younger players being added to the roster before August.

I’m also delighted that Mathieu Roy is returning, what an inspirational player he has been for us. Did he have his best season last year? Well of course not but I believe the reasons behind that, injuries have now cleared up. We started to see the best of The King towards the end of the year and his play off semi final goal against Nottingham was crucial to our progression to the play off final.

I’m a huge Roy fan. I trust Mathieu. By that I mean I know how much he cares, how badly he wants the Steelers to succeed.

I love the way he plays, his determination to put body and soul on the line. Maybe The King’s role within the team will change, hopefully the burden of constantly being the go to guy will be shared around with some of the newcomers joining us next year.

For me a Steelers side is better, way way better with Mathieu Roy in it – God Save the King I say. On the flip side we learn that Eric Neiley won’t be returning after announcing his retirement.

Eric is a switched on man, very clever and well educated, opportunities outside hockey were always going to come knocking on his door. And they did. A shame because he was a player I am sure Paul Thompson would have offered new terms too.

So is it just Roy that will return from last season’s imports? – I’m not so sure, I think there will be massive changes but I don’t see 13 new imports, double figures yes but 13? No.

So your question is where are the new signings?

Well the answer is that right now none of the major clubs have made new announcements. All clubs have confirmed re-signings, Nottingham, Cardiff and Belfast have all been the same as we.

The reason is simple, we are all chasing players we can’t afford right now. All the clubs set their targets high and make plays for these great players hoping they can snatch one. One by one they fall away as these guys go to the higher paying leagues. This then leaves a gap for those players who were hoping to get a move to Germany, Austria or Sweden but now are finding that difficult because those jobs are taken – then the signing rush will commence not just in Sheffield but everywhere.

Of course I am lucky to be privy of some information about players we are linked with and I can say that I’m more than comfortable where we are right now.

It’s 14 weeks (this coming Saturday) until we open pre season and the exhibition games. That’s plenty of time. More than enough.