I’m not saying I can’t wait for the new season but when you start counting down the days in terms of players numbers you do think that perhaps you should get a life.
Today, there are 23 more sleeps before the start of what I believe will be the most exciting ever EIHL season. The club’s most intense pre-season will see the Paul Thompson era commence with the two Holiday Inn Royal Victoria Cup games against Braehead - the week after Steelers begin their first ever campaign in the Champions Hockey League with the real elite of European hockey, clubs of a standard that we in Sheffield have never seen or played against before.
Two weeks after that, the most competitive Elite League begins. Gone are the days of two or three clubs at the top fighting it out... this season, every club has invested and improved. The product will be at an all-time high.
That’s good for the fans. It means a faster, stronger game. The quality of players signed by not just Steelers, but by all 10 clubs, will mean more competitive games, especially in our Erdhart Conference. Cardiff will be deeper than ever coming off their great season last year under Andrew Lord.
They are so deep, they let GB international Mathew Myers leave. Coventry realised that they, too, had to invest after a couple of seasons in the wilderness.
Under coach Chuck Webber, and with the play off championship in the bag, the Blaze are back. They’ve added Drew Fisher to their roster, the East Coast League’s third-highest point scorer last year. Between the pipes remains Brian Stewart, last campaign’s stud goalie.
With Stephen Murphy back to full fitness the Belfast Giants, like Cardiff, benefit from a full complement of out skating imports. Their depth, experience and a new expected bench coach set to arrive prior to the start of the season, means that Belfast will once again be expecting to compete for silverware.
When the new EIHL starts, will Nottingham be favourites in this super division of the league’s best teams? Maybe. They will be deepest with four full lines that will probably see two GB internationals on a fourth unit. Mind you, they will have that tough carthorse Erick Lizon to drag them back for the first part of the year #gonebychristmas.
Panthers have reacted to not winning last season, and certainly to not being in the CHL at the start of the year.
Their owner Neil Black is a cheerleader for British teams in Europe and he won’t be happy until both of his sides occupy the two slots available to Elite sides for that competition.
That of course brings us on to Braehead, favourites for the Gardner Conference. Despite Dundee, Fife, Edinburgh and Manchester beefing up considerably, the Clan will dominate that division. The question is; can the other four teams take enough points off Clan to give an Erdhart team a shot at the league title, and automatic qualification into the CHL next season?
This is the Clan’s best chance of success.
They will throw everything at it, and have done. A total of 13 forwards, seven D men make them a real force.
Every week in the Elite League there will be not just a battle at the Sheffield Arena but all over the UK, throughout England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland.
This sport is about to reach highs we haven’t seen since the Super League era 15 years ago.
On any night any team can beat any other team in the Elite League in any of the venues.
I still wouldn’t swap any of the other rosters, even the deeper ones, though for the squad that Paul Thompson has put together.
I like our team; strong goaltending, a solid mobile and offensive defence core with size and toughness. Up front we have a bit of everything. Speed, size, toughness, skill and goals.
We have the league’s best player from last season, Mathieu Roy; the most gifted forward in Colton Fretter and perhaps the hardest working in Tyler Mosienko.
I think this season we will see an even better season from Tyler under Thommo.
I think Mosienko wants to be driven and I think Paul will do just that.
The Steelers used to have the deepest Brit pack, Nottingham do now.
But me, I wouldn’t trade the Panther homegrown talent for ours. Ben O’Connor and Robert Dowd are the stars for me, I wouldn’t trade another British forward for Dowdy and there isn’t a local D man that can lace Benny’s skates.
Show me then a supporting cast that care more than the likes of Jonathan Phillips, the most underrated Brit in the league, Jason Hewitt and young Luke Fererra.