Dave Simms Column: Sheffield Steelers’ walking wounded get a welcome chance to heal

Paul Thompson - Sheffield Steelers v Cardiff Devils 23/01/16
Paul Thompson - Sheffield Steelers v Cardiff Devils 23/01/16
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No hockey for the Steelers this weekend, what with the International break and GB playing in the Olympic pre qualifier in Italy.

Congratulations to Jonathan Phillips, by the way, who captains GB once again. What an asset he is to our club.

The international break has come at just the right time for the Steelers. Many around the league have mocked the club when we have spoken about our injuries. ‘All clubs have them’, they shout, but I have never known the catalogue of injuries like that we have this year.

So the week break has come at the right time, allowing for a few bodies to heel and rest up.

It’s not just injuries, it’s injuries to the wrong guys, key irreplaceable players. Both starting goalies Messrs Plante and Pinc – out for a time.

Our key go-to guy, Colton Fretter, out long term. Desbiens; Dowd too. Hey, you play the hand you are dealt but the cards haven’t fallen our way to date.

Hopefully by the time we start again next Wednesday in Manchester, Desbiens will be fully ready, Dowdy may be just a week or so away – Pinc, Roy, Fitzgerald, Nelson and Mosienko will, if not fully fit, be just a little rated for the title push and run in.

If the Steelers can pick up the points in Manchester it will set up the weekend of all weekends on the 20th/21st against Cardiff – the Saturday in Sheffield and the Sunday in Cardiff. First against second, going head to head; if either side can win both of those games, they become favourites for the Championship.

Ironic that, again, the Steelers and Devils are going head to head. In 2012 the Steelers pinched the title on tied points by winning more games in regulation. Last year it was rather more comfortable (by just one point!)

Fans have already realised the importance of the weekend games – pre ticket sales for next weekend are already over what we would expect for a game this weekend.

In the past this is when the Steelers have come to the fore – those big games, big moments. Rightly, we are getting excited about it.

Paul Thompson has been fined by the EIHL for his post game comments following the overtime defeat in Coventry – fined for telling the truth.

Doesn’t seem right, does it? A goal awarded after a whistle has blown a play down? Yes, it happened.

I’m all for fining coaches, players or even PA announcers if it’s fair and the system apples across the board.

If you are to fine Thompson, then also discipline officials who make wrong decisions.

Also bring to account schedulers who put the same referee into the same game, just seven days apart. Where else in the world would that happen? Fining Thompson is the easy thing. If we are to do that, then fine. But first of all, we have to get to the core reason first – officiating is the biggest issue the league has right now. It needs investment and attention.

Cancelling the four-man system used elsewhere in Europe has been a disaster. It has to be re-instated. The three-man system is hurting us today and hurting us going forward. It has to come back next year. Has to.

The Blaze have certainly had the Steelers’ number this year. Tip your hat to their goalie, Brian Stewart; he has been outstanding. Crazy to think they have five wins against us this year, while we have seven against Belfast. What a crazy league this is. Close, tight and exciting.