Dave Simms ice hockey column: Moyer move sets the tone

Sheffield Steelers coach Paul Thompson (left) and owner Tony Smith - in the transfer market
Sheffield Steelers coach Paul Thompson (left) and owner Tony Smith - in the transfer market

So the Paul Thompson era has started and not a bad signing to commence his reign in Sheffield – Russ Moyer.

The move for Moyer had an element of luck involved with his agent contacting the club some time ago asking if we were interested. As it happens Moyer’s wife had applied to be a student at the University of Sheffield so Russ needed a local team in England to play for, the Steelers were only to happy to oblige – well done University of Sheffield, I say.

Moyer has vast experience in Europe and was a major reason why Karlskrona were promoted from the Allsvenskan to the SHL last year. Karlskrona were keen for Moyer to remain with them for their first year in the toughest league in Europe but Moyer had promised his wife that (after following him around Europe for a number of years) he would follow her this season. I like Moyer’s wife already!

So the Steeler back end has changed from last year’s winning team and expect more changes on the blue line to follow. Questions to be answered, will Mark Thomas give it one more year? Dustin Kohn, as exceptional as he is: Do they take the risk on a player who has missed large chunks of the two previous seasons. Rod Sarich, who had a great year last season, can he deliver that form again? The man who will have to answer those questions is Paul Thompson. I think Thompson will try and bring in a couple of his own men but will also want to retain at least one further part of the championship defence.

Goaltending is the other interesting area. Things you may not be aware of that affects the goaltending position. The people who administer the work permits have tightened up the guidelines for import goalies. They have to have played 75% of games the previous year. In previous years the 75% rule was for games dressed in, not necessarily played in. That’s almost impossible to find a goalie who played last year in North America as so much of the goaltending is shared over there.

So next year’s goalies, not only in Sheffield but around the league, might be those who played here in the Elite League last season or a few EU passport holders, whether that be European goalies or North Americans with EU passports as well.

It was a reason we looked at bring Ervins Mustukovs back to Sheffield. The goalie who helped the Steelers win the 2012 league title under Ben Simon has a Latvian passport. Mustukovs or “Moose” as he is known had agreed to come back but at the recent World Championships was approached by a KHL team - Riga (lots of money!) Whilst that deal hasn’t be completed yet it does look likely. In the meantime Grenoble (France) offered Moose a contract for more money than we could with a get-out clause should the KHL offer materialise.

This is a typical summer for all coaches. You think you have a player and then something happens and he goes elsewhere. Then, and it will happen this year as well, you try a guy and he turns you down only to reappear later in the summer – take Colton Fretter last year as a good example of that.

I hope you were as pleased as I was that young Luke Ferrara agreed to sign for us full time. He is a cracking kid and he committed a lot to us last year, he must have done even more miles than I do travelling from Peterborough to Sheffield to practise and play when needed. I know Gerad Adams held the young man in very high esteem indeed. The other players also took to Luke as well, a good sign of character if you are welcomed in and he was.

So the summer is off and rolling, the first signings added to the roster. With the Champions League ahead of us it will be a summer that needs the team completing earlier than in previous years. Training camp starts almost three weeks earlier than last year. Next week we will have news on the exhibition games and news on the CHL draw. Paul Thompson and I fly out to Prague next week for the draw that will see us play two home and two away games before the EIHL season begins. Exciting times.