RYAN Finnerty is 76 days away from hanging up his boots.
The Sheffield Steelers player coach today confirmed that this season - his 15th in professional hockey - will be his last on the ice.
Finnerty is 31 - five years younger than his player assistant coach Ashley Tait and four younger than Nottingham Panthers’ defencemen-team-boss Corey Neilson.
But a nagging back problem has put paid to his hopes of continuing playing.
Finnerty, who was Cardiff Devil’s top penalty-minutes taker last year, revealed: “This is my last year, just because of the way I feel it has to be. I have not got much more left in me.
“Every so often one of my (spinal) discs slips out, it did it in the summer. I always try and strengthen the area around it but then it just seems to jar. It can happen any time, it doesn’t matter what I am doing; I could be taking a shower and it goes.
“I get back into place at the chiropractor’s, but a back problem affects skating and balance,” said the Canadian forward, who took over from title-winning player coach Ben Simon at Sheffield last summer.
Finnerty, while frustrated his options are being taken away by fitness issues has one consolation.
“I will be a better coach, 100 per cent, when I stop playing,” he said.
“It will be night and day. It’s different when you are playing, you can only do so much. But when you are on the bench you see everything, that’s why there is no player coach in the NHL and they seem to get it right! I am looking forward to concentrating fully on coaching it is a move in right direction for Sheffield. But I also look forward to finishing this season and seeing what we can do.”
Leaders Belfast Giants, who lost at home to Nottingham Panthers last Saturday, can go seven points clear at the top of the Elite League if they win at Cardiff tomorrow. Third place Steelers, who are on a seven game winning streak, currently have six games in hand over the Irish.