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Simmsey’s Steelers Column: Time for new-look Sheffield ice hockey team to face Leksands

Jiri Gula (D) Sheffield Steelers
Jiri Gula (D) Sheffield Steelers

At last Sheffield the summer is over – well almost – and it’s time for hockey as the Steelers ‘New Generation’ take to the ice for the first time this weekend with a special home double header against Swedish giants Leksands.

We hope you will see 16 new faces. I say hope, as we are still awaiting visa clearance for Chris Lawrence – all the others have arrived and are ready to play.

Training camp started on Monday. After this longest of summers it was so good to see the harvest of the hard work done over the past few months.

The thinking, the late nights, the negotiations to bring in what is almost a brand new team. Then at 9.30am at iceSheffield there they all sat there before us.

Josh Pitt the first guy signed, Josh McFadden days after and right up to Aaron Johnson, this year’s most decorated player and the club’s last signing that completed the roster.

There sat Evan McGrath. He was the first name I heard Thompson mention as last season concluded, I heard his name mentioned for three months and then, finally I took the call off the Steelers coach saying “Got Him”

When I walked into the dressing room minutes before our meeting started I felt it was like walking into an away team’s locker room, all these players I didn’t recognise – then I saw Davey (Phillips) and the world was a better place. I walked up to this big man and introduced myself. ‘David Simms’, I said as I held out my hand ‘Hello – George’, he replied. George I thought? We haven’t signed a George who the hell is this?

It turned out to be Jiri Gula. ‘George is easier,’ he said with a smile.

First impressions. Pitt, the girls will love him. Eberly, looks like a rink rat, I think we will all love him.

McGrath, the thinker, the professor. Johnson, cool, seen it all before, in control. Owens, I like him.

He has a mischievous look about him. I think he may get us into trouble. Jonno, the captain, relax, what’s new, seen it all before, let’s get on with it. Jackson Whistle doesn’t stop smiling, the happy guy.

Let’s stick with that happy guy line, that was an impression I took away.

Here was a new team. Excited to be here, wondering what was a head of them.

The experienced guys like Johnson, McGrath, Owens and Martinelli looked as happy as the youngsters.

There was a freshness about this new crew. That’s nothing against the old one, we missed them on Monday, no Fretter Roy or Nelson, they were missed but the clock waits for no man and we move on.

The results this weekend against Leksands won’t mean anything, in fact Leksands should be victorious. This next two, three and four weeks is where the foundations will be laid for the eight months ahead.

Mark Matheson’s appointment as player assistant coach, thoughts? Well if any player can take on the role and responsibility of this dual position it is Mark.

A diligent and competent individual. A serious man when he needs to be but most of all an all-consuming hockey man. Matheson will head the defensive line up which really does look strong with Johnson, McFadden, Martinelli, Gula, Phillips and Matheson patrolling the blue line. We look big and smooth back there, mobile but with strength and size.

A different route for the Steelers with the player assistant after several years of a full time assistant – that can be put down to many things.

A change of philosophy, a decision to put more money on the ice or simply the start of a new generation. I’m excited and you should be too.

In fact you are, as we have sold out Saturday’s game against Leksands. Tickets still available for Sunday’s game (5pm at iceSheffield).