David Simms Sheffield Steelers column: Cheers all round as Eric Neiley returns to ice hockey club

Eric Neiley who has rejoined Sheffield Steelers
Eric Neiley who has rejoined Sheffield Steelers

The news that Eric Neiley was returning to the Sheffield Steelers on Wednesday morning was greeted with cheers all over Yorkshire.

Neiley was a popular member of last year’s squad, in fact he was one of just a few that were invited back to be a part of this Steelers side in the summer.

Eric, who was recently married, took the view that his hard-earned education must now pay the bills so he took a job in the real world and retired from hockey.

Steelers contacted Eric throughout the summer to see if he was having a change of heart but no, the outside world was winning.

That was until the season started. Neiley realised that the desire to play was still there.

The issue was that the inn was full in Sheffield, budget, housing and roster size. Eric was anxious to play and rather than wait for a slot to become available here he signed for MK Lightning with Messrs Wallace, Valdix and Shudra.

Circumstances now bring Eric back. So what will Neiley bring and why did the club think he was the right guy to join the Barrasso Steelers?

Well firstly we know him both as a player and as a person. He will fit in. His work ethic is off the charts and we believe his skating is good enough. Tom wants speed and grit and that’s what Eric brings to the table. His ability to play up and down the line up is also important, his goals make him a good bet to play on the team’s top 6.

There are no negatives to this signing, club happy, team happy, players happy and judging by the social media reaction today the fans are happy too.

Just to clear a point up that is being suggested on social media – the club didn’t “tap up” anyone.

The club did everything correctly, as MK suggest in their media release. We approached the club, we debated with the club, we were asked for a grace period of time by the club and then because we had done things correctly, MK agreed to the deal.

Neiley will make his debut on Sunday when the Steelers take on Manchester Storm – remember the new family friendly face-off time of 4pm (doors open at 3pm)

Steelers go into that game on the back of three straight road wins in Scotland against Dundee, Glasgow and Fife. Robert Dowd has his goal scoring boots on after hitting the back of the net 4 times against Fife.

Those four goals took him to 210 Steelers goals that makes him the 5th highest goal scorer for the club in its history.

What an achievement.

One of the big things recently is the speed and intensity that the team is playing with.

It has certainly helped having Ben O’Connor in the line up but also the return of Dowd, McGrath and Owens from injury.

Now with DeLuca and Neiley joining, the Steelers have the chance to use that intensity over four lines not just the three they have been playing with.

I was speaking with captain Jonathan Phillips on Tuesday, he was telling me that the team could feel they were stronger than the opposition going into the third period. “That’s with three lines, wait until we do that with four,” he said. I can’t wait.

“We work hard in the week both on the ice and in the gym,” Phillips continued. “We are seeing the result of that late in games now.”

Manchester forward Mike Hammond, whose father sadly passed away last week, will be in the Storm line up for the game before returning to Canada next week.

The series has been tight against the Storm this year. We lead the series 2 games to 1. Manchester have had success in the arena though that was in the cup when Steelers confidence was at a low. Now we seem to be back on track and I expect another good showing from the Barrasso Steelers on Sunday.

Just a quick word on 4pm. We know it doesn’t suit everyone but we do believe that it’s the right time for the majority, especially those with kids. The pressure to get little Johnny and Julie back home and in bed so they can be up for school on Monday is a big one. We think this helps.

The smiles have been on Steelers faces all week, a 4 point double header weekend  last time around, a great new signing in Eric Neiley and a barnstorming game against Manchester to look forward to this Sunday.

Steelers are back at it folks – see you on Sunday.