THE FANS waiting for Colt King to come out of the dressing room to take his photograph could have had no idea their hero was about to be fired.
A glum looking King, 29, wandered into a specially-prepared room inside Sheffield Arena, minutes after Steelers had lost their fourth game in five and indulged the supporters. There was a forced smile on his face when the camera flashed - he’d looked pretty wretched before the quick meeting with his fans. Was that merely because of last Sunday night’s defeat, or did he have an inkling there was a bullet with his name on it?
Whatever, coach Ryan Finnerty fired King 24 hours later.
It was - and remains- a massive gamble by Finnerty, given the possibility of injuries or further form lapses.
The coach emphatically refuses to divulge the reasons why he ditched one of his high profile imports less than a week before the Play Offs.
But it wouldn’t be a leap of imagination to suggest he perceived King as one of the “passengers” that he’d previously said were slowing Steelers down as the season draws to a climax. And, perhaps, that his influence on others in the camp was perceived as troubling.
While Finnerty is keeping his counsel publicly, he explained his reasoning to players yesterday in a series of meetings.
He told The Star: “Obviously it was a bit of a shock for the guys but it will have opened a few eyes about what we are trying to do here. We haven’t been playing good hockey and we must snap out of our losing streak.
“Doing what I did is never easy and on a personal level I have a lot of respect for Kinger; he is a good guy.”
Finnerty added: “I have had good feedback from some players while others have struggled because, obviously, friendships develop over the year. Some fans will be confused and have a lot of questions too. But as a club we have to move on, now and maybe talk later.”
The coach, who has had the backing of owner Tony Smith, now has to form a game plan and revised team list for the Play Off quarter finals against Hull Stingrays next weekend.
* Hull Stingrays player-coach Sylvain Cloutier believes discipline will decide their play-off series with Steelers.
Cloutier said: “We have had an intense week of practice. It will be intense this weekend so we had to prepare for that. You can’t just go through the motions in training and expect to turn it on for the game.
“We need to make sure we are ready for a battle. We know it is going to be an uphill battle so we must be focused.
“We are the underdog, it’s David v Goliath. They were built to win a league title, a Challenge Cup and to win trophies. We know they are going to be hungry to win a trophy.
“We must make sure we are well prepared and cut down on our mistakes. We need to take something out of our home game and keep it close going into Sheffield to give ourselves a chance.
“It is going to be two tense and physical games but it will come down to discipline and special teams. We have to keep our emotions in check.
“It is two games and we need to leave everything on the ice. It is going to be tough but we have to believe we can do it. We will give it our best shot.”