With the signing of former Panthers captain Danny Meyers many people around the league have asked where does that leave Mark Thomas, the veteran D man who joined the Steelers seven years ago?
The only people asking the question are, of course, those outside Sheffield as those inside the Steelers camp know that Stockport-born blue liner Tomo is a key component for the club ... an important a cog in the wheel as a Jeff Legue, Rod Sarich or Ashley Tait.
When Thomas and Jason Hewitt arrived in Sheffield the Steelers were in a horrible place with coaching changes on a monthly basis, quality imports but almost zero quality home grown players.
Thomas joined midway through the 2005-06 season, a year that saw Paul Sample lead home grown goal scoring with just five and that was two ahead of Warren Tait. The duo not only took Sheffield and the Steelers to their hearts but quickly realised that they were going to be key figures in the changing of the guard at the Arena.
In the seven years that have followed Tomo has become a rock solid and reliable defencman that can play in all positions and in all situations. He has become a Steelers hero in not only collecting several league and play-off championships but being known as the overtime king after scoring important winners against Cardiff, Nottingham and Fife. His importance both on and off the ice has to be seen at first hand to be fully appreciated.
Tomo is one of a few that makes others accountable. He is a first class ambassador for the club, a smart and intelligent person off and on the ice. Inside the room though he’s a caring and feisty competitive individual who learnt how to win in Sheffield and hasn’t forgotten. A person that doesn’t accept second best from either himself or his team-mates; a man amongst men and one that leads by example.
Many British D men would have been nervous, would have been worried when they found out that Danny Meyers was joining their club. Not Mark Thomas. I was the one that called him to advise him what was going on. “I hope we get him,” were his first words to me. “He will be a great signing; it makes us deep and strong, doesn’t it?”
Coach Ryan Finnerty came out with a great line to me at the end of last season - “We need people who care more about the crest on the front of the shirt than the name on the back.”
In Mark Thomas you have that player and that person.
Tomo will never get disregarded by the Steelers as the club has too much respect for the job he has done and continues to do – they will never do to him what our friends down the road did to Danny Meyers. Mark Thomas cares. That’s why he’s a winner, a leader and a gentleman.
Finnerty hopes to conclude two more signings in the next week. One of the deals comes with a clause that the player concerned can move elsewhere in Europe up until the start of June (but only to the Steelers in the Elite League) so don’t expect too many signing announcements before then.