David Simms' Sheffield Steelers ice hockey column: Cole Shudra has returned to us a man

Hope your garden is starting to look nice as you only have nine – yes nine – weekends free before the season starts.

By David Simms
Wednesday, 05 June, 2019, 16:42
Cole Shudra in action for Sheffield during the 2017-18 season.

If you’re getting anxious about signings then don’t. Aaron Fox has it all in hand, in fact you might hear something about a new recruit before the weekend. 

Inside the club we have all been very impressed with Arron and his diligence in recruiting this new Steelers team, we certainly like what he is doing and think you will as well once more is announced in the weeks ahead.

Call me an old romantic but I was delighted to read in the Star this week that Aaron has a place for Cole Shudra in this year’s squad. Rightly so as well. Firstly, a Shudra in the Steelers team always makes sense to me.

Secondly and much more importantly Cole has done everything asked of him by the club in trying to prove himself and become a full time member of this team, it’s where is heart is and I love that.

Ask him to play D and he did, put him up front and he did. 

Bring him into the office and tell him he was being loaned out to Milton Keynes, a first in British hockey, and he didn’t bat an eyelid. Packed his bag, left home for the first time and commenced that most important part of his development.

I think it’s great when these young guys have to leave home, move out of the comfort zone and make their own way. I remember Ryan Finnerty telling me at 14 he left home and travelled half way around Canada to play in a team that would help his progression. 

No friends, no familiar faces. He had to dig deep and make his way. Cole didn’t have to go that far but give him the respect for committing to MK.

Cole iced more in MK than he would have anywhere else. He played in all situations, forward, defence, powerplay and penalty killing. After the comfort of Sheffield and the well run Steelers he ended up with a side fighting just to survive, the creature comforts were gone.

He could have packed his bag and come home to Mom and Dad and with the Steelers in the position they were, probably a role with us. But no, he stayed put, he dug in. He committed. 

I’ve heard it said that Cole left us a boy and returned a man, if that is the case then that year away could have been the most important in his hockey career.

The first Steeler back in the gym this summer was Cole. He has been working like a dog every day with our strength and conditioning coach Danny Mawer. Cole knows that being on the squad isn’t enough. He wants a role on the team, he wants to make an impact and show the new boss that he is worthy of that position.

Right now Cole Shudra is doing whatever it takes, come training camp those fighting for the same position better look out because he isn’t giving way – I love that attitude, good on you Cole.

So, two former Steelers have landed coaching roles at other Elite League clubs. Cole Shudra’s boss in MK, Tim Wallace has been named head coach of the Nottingham Panthers and fan favourite Zack Fitzgerald was named top dog at the Glasgow Clan.

Wallace did a sterling job with MK under the most difficult of circumstances last year.  Fitzy is a leader of men. They both have tough tasks ahead of them, many questions will be asked and many pressures they haven’t experienced before will hit them head on. We wish them well, unless they are playing us. 

Finally. on behalf of the Steelers we would like to wish the Star’s Head of Sport Bob Westerdale all the very best in his retirement from the paper he has served so well for many, many years.  I was delighted when I heard Bob was retiring but then found out he was remaining on Steelers and boxing duties, so I was stuck working alongside him.

When the Steelers hit Sheffield in 1991 ice hockey was unheard of, the Steelers were an embryo and as a club we needed to get our message out there. 

Bob Westerdale was the first on the scene, he realised that Sheffield was on the verge of something new and exciting. 

Over the 28 years that have followed Bob has been both good and bad to us, there has been no favouritism as this proper old school journalist gave us credit when it was due and went to town on us when we, sometimes at least, deserved it.

Bob and the Star played a huge role in our progress, I think we can say without any doubt or contradiction that we wouldn’t be the club we are today without both of their involvements. 

Bob was there for championships and ownership disputes, he was on the ground for front page leads in Finland when the team ended up in a mass brawl with opposition players and fans, not our finest hour. 

He was also there as the Steelers and Weston Park Hospital supported Amy Usher in her fight for life and the incredible legacy she has left behind. 

The reality is that he has been there for our history, as has the Star. We are delighted he will remain reporting on the Steelers and keeping us on our toes.