David Simms Sheffield Steelers’ ice hockey column: Good news as core British players been resigned

New coach Aaron Fox and Steelrs' owner Tony Smith
New coach Aaron Fox and Steelrs' owner Tony Smith

This is going to be a big summer not just in Sheffield but around the Elite League.

Big moves, coaches and players. The Steelers of course started the summer merry-go-round off with the Aaron Fox and Marco Vallerand signings. They followed it up with the equally important re-signings of the British core including Ben O’Connor, Davey Phillips, Jonathan Phillips, Kieran Brown and of course, the Golden child, Robert Dowd.

Belfast confirm the loss of Blair Riley, he will resurface with another EIHL side, a huge capture for them. Belfast will ease their pain when they confirm Manchester forward Ciaran Long as Colin Shield’s replacement.

Keep your eyes on Guildford, my old mate Paul Dixon is looking at converting the three line Flames into a 4 line powerhouse. He lost the final of the Challenge Cup and also the semi finals of the play off’s to the Giants. Digger knows he needs a deeper bench and the word on the street has him looking to a little Village just south of Sheffield for a couple of recruits.  

Bob Westerdale in the Sheffield Star picked up on the social media chatter surrounding Peter Russell, the GB head coach. The bongo drums are sending signals that he is on his way to Germany, the same league as his GB assistant Corey Neilson, the league below former Steelers boss Paul Thompson. It’s an incredible opportunity for Pete if true …. I wish him well. Coaches from the UK have done well when leaving these shores. I put it down to the apprenticeship they get here. They don’t just coach, they do everything. Recruitment, equipment, ordering the bus, mopping the floor, clearing the apartments out for the next import. 

Then when they move on they are grounded, experienced and ready to just coach. Dave Matsos has had a great career since leaving the Steelers in major junior hockey. Rob Wilson is on his way to the NHL after leaving Newcastle and spells in Italy and Germany. The aforementioned Neilson is the coach of the year in DEL 2 and of course Thompson who leads a side in the DEL.

Agents and other sides will see this and not be afraid to pull the trigger on coaches from the UK. If Russell does leave then both of the Black family clubs in Nottingham and Glasgow are looking for new leaders. They won’t go abroad and new to this league in their searches I don’t think. Both the Panthers and the Clan have been burnt by new coaching recruits in recent years. They will keep it in the UK family, ex players, coaches, EIHL experience. Two great jobs going there possibly. 

Aaron Fox landed in Sheffield in Sheffield at the start of the week, he and his family will spend the next three years in the Steel City. Kids will be schooled here and we hope success will be achieved. 

Fox was speaking at a fan event on Tuesday, he mentioned he wished to bring an assistant coach with him but would leave that decision until he could see where his budget was being spent on the ice. He was open minded to either an assistant or player assistant. Aaron was at ease speaking with fans, there is a calmness about him and a certain warmth. You can feel the room is pulling for him, the desire for success is certainly there from both sides. 

The season isn’t over for the leading British Steelers as they commence Pool A World Championships. The Pete Russell led squad will face the Worlds best in the weeks ahead. The biggest task any British side has ever faced. It makes the Liverpool task on Tuesday look like a stroll in the park.

We wish Jonno and the boys well. We also congratulate Kieran Brown whose hat trick secured the England side a great 4-3 victory of the boys from Scotland last week. New apprentice Alex Graham also impressed in the Nation conference finals. What a shot that young lad possesses. 

Wish the season was about to start, I’m bored already.