Ten year Steeler Mark Thomas today left Sheffield for Manchester Phoenix.
“It’s been the toughest of decisions” the Mancunian said.
“I love Sheffield and the Steelers. They have been a major part of my life over the past decade and the thought of walking away is not one I am looking forward to.
“The reality is though that time waits for no man. I have to look to the future and as a married man with two kids the future is in Manchester and I guess working in what they call the real world. This past year has been hard with the commuting.
“Elite league, professional hockey is a full time job. I wish I was 22 again and this was starting all over because I have loved every second of being here and it’s so tough to walk away. The truth though is that I am older and new challenges wait ahead of me.
“I can’t thank everyone enough who has been involved in the club over the past 10 years enough for everything they have done for me. I could never have imagined the relationship I had with the club and the fans that first day I walked into the arena. The journey we have all been on, the brilliant times we have shared and the trophies we have won.
“As a man from Manchester many will think it strange that I say the Sheffield Steelers are my club but they are. I love the club, the building, the fans and my team mates” said Thomas.
“During my time in Sheffield I got married and had my two kids, born on the wrong side of the hills but even they will always have a Sheffield and the Steelers in their blood.
“The most amazing coincidence was that they were both born in years that we delivered the championship, I did ask the wife if we could have kids every year after that but she declined that offer.
“The fantastic memories are just too many to mention. The overtime game winner in Cardiff back in 2012 that pretty much won us a championship is a personally one that I could never forget. I remember the outcome of emotion when I scored the OT winner in Sheffield against Nottingham, to make so many people happy at one time is a feeling you can’t explain. The photo of Jason Hewitt hugging me is one that hangs in our house. Two local Manchester lads giving their all for their team in Sheffield.
“I will miss everyone very much, miss walking into the arena and putting on the Steelers shirt, sitting next to my best mates and most of all playing in front of the Steelers crowd.”
Steelers owner Tony Smith thanked Thomas for his loyalty to the club saying: “It has been a pleasure to have Mark and his family involved with the Steelers and I am sure I speak for the owners who preceded me during his 10 year spell here. Mark will always be thought of in the highest standing by everyone at this club. His dedication and hunger to be the best he could and help make this team a winning one is something he should be very proud of.
“I trust he won’t be a stranger and that he will come back and visit us. Mark is a Steeler and always will be, the Thomas family will always be amongst friends when they are ever in Sheffield.”