Dave Simms’ Steelers column: Mike Forney’s departure could be start of a new era for Sheffield

Mike Forney - Sheffield Steelers v Edinburgh Capitals 22/10/14
Mike Forney - Sheffield Steelers v Edinburgh Capitals 22/10/14
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It was inevitable that not all of the Steelers’ championship winning side would return, and so that turned out to be with the confirmation on Monday that free-scoring forward Mike Forney had signed in Belfast.

Forney found the back of the net 43 times in 69 league, cup and play off games – he was a reason the Steelers won the league title.

The Steelers had tried to retain Forney; they had made him an increased offer. Then last Friday came the news from the agents that Mike was signing elsewhere. We wish him well, he is a good man.

I guess it’s now a matter of ‘the king is dead - long live the king’. The reality is: players come and players go. Some fans will be upset at Forney’s departure but come August there will be a new player in his shirt and those fans will cheer that new chap on, no doubt.

The one good thing for coach Paul Thompson is that Forney was one of the club’s top earners. Thompson can now decide how he uses that cash; on one hand he could spend it all on a replacement, or he could split it over a couple or three positions and improve the roster across the board. Also the position of goaltender hasn’t yet been agreed and maybe some increase in the budget in that area could help.

Sometimes when you hear the news that a star has left, your heart sinks. But when you look at the bigger picture, there might just be a rainbow showing.

Paul Thompson, flying the flag overseas

Paul Thompson, flying the flag overseas

The position of the club’s assistant coach has moved on. I think it’s common knowledge that Thommo is looking to bring in a full time, 24/7 assistant. Thompson has been in charge of a coaching team these past two seasons and whilst the coaching team is maybe a few years away in Sheffield, Paul will expand the coaching staff - no doubt.

The matter of training, practice and, certainly, off-ice fitness is something in particular Thompson wishes to implement. If I hear Paul say the words ‘fitter, stronger, faster’ again, I will scream! But it is a philosophy he strongly believes in. The only players he will sign, will be players who buy in to that as well.

Last week the Steelers’ Champions Hockey League groupings were confirmed and it couldn’t be harder, with game against Swedish SEL Giants Frolunda and Finnish Elite League side JYP Jyvaskyla.

The experience for everyone - coaches, players and fans - will be incredible. These are two serious hockey teams from top Pool A nations. It will be a standard of hockey the vast majority of fans will never have witnessed live. I’ve been to Frolunda and it’s an incredible set up. Real Madrid visited them to look at their off-ice training facilities and then went back to Spain and copied it - that’s how good and how prepared they will be.

The experience for everyone - coaches, players and fans - will be incredible. These are two serious hockey teams from top Pool A nations. It will be a standard of hockey the vast majority of fans will never have witnessed live. I’ve been to Frolunda and it’s an incredible set up. Real Madrid visited them to look at their off-ice training facilities and then went back to Spain and copied it - that’s how good and how prepared they will be.

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They had a building bigger than the Motorpoint Arena, with 12,000 seats. They needed something bigger so built a brand new arena and kept the old 12,000 seat one as a training rink.

They didn’t need the concourse anymore that ran around the middle of the building, so they turned it into an indoor running track for their players. There gym had 50 static bikes. The two huge German chaps who ran the gym had workout programmes for everyone at the club, from age 14 to the top professionals. You had a credit card that you ran through the system to gain access, and out popped your daily fitness programme. The indoor swimming pool had six cameras underwater so that when you walked, they could tell how your knees bent and reacted to pressure. It went on and on. Oh, and they had their own operating theatre as well. Just incredible.

Both Frolunda and Jsp will bring 28-30 players and a team of four or five coaches, and they won’t be flying Ryanair – back in Sweden they charter for the majority of their away games.

Isn’t it brilliant that we are in a competition with them, competing with them? They are where we are aiming at.

It may be a year away, it maybe 20 years away but if you have nothing to aim at, you will never get anywhere will you?

Bring it on, I say!