SHEFFIELD Steelers owner Tony Smith reaffirmed one man’s faith in human nature today.
Smith has appointed former player Marc Twaite in a sales role at the club. For Twaite it represents the start of a new career...and closure on the most painful and emotion-charged chapter in his life.
Twaite, 37, suffered massive upper body injuries in a training collision with teammate Scott Allison on December 11, 2001. Under the ownership of Norton Lea, surgery was twice delayed and although the injuries finished Twaite’s playing career, there was no insurance in place to protect him. After Lea left, Twaite continued his compensation battle with the new owner Bob Phillips.
Twaite regarded himself as a Phillips’ creditor, something Phillips contested. In the end, Twaite ended up penniless, out of work, dependent for a time on drink and painkillers and is still virtually homeless.
Now though, the seven-season Nottingham Panthers forward is back at Sheffield, heading the club’s drive to sell corporate tickets, a job he has done before at Milton Keynes Kings.
Not that the appointment was driven by sentiment. Smith says: “Marc’s brief is very specific: to find new fans and sell them tickets - no giveaways just good old fashioned selling, whether it be by phone, a visit, whatever.
“I have absolutely no doubt he will aspire to a bigger job in time. Marc has a great enthusiasm for work and just needs a chance - so here it is.
“I believe Marc is one for the future and has a good chance of getting his life back on track.”
The former Great Britain skater, nicknamed Smurf, told The Star: “I am very happy to be given the opportunity and I’ll be doing my best as I always do, but I’ll still continue to fight for justice in our sport.
“I want to move forward with Tony now and would very much like to see the Elite League thinking in terms of long-term structure and stability...putting that before any import!
“Previous ownerships, in general across our sport, haven’t just hurt their own teams they have hurt the sport. But now it’s time to turn some of the negatives into positives.
“In my new job, I will be targeting new fans and giving them confidence that we have a sustainable, entertaining product. I will also be asking stars from other sports to come along and see what they are missing; that exposure will improve our brand.”
Ideally, Twaite said he’d like to bring back the good old days of more than 8,000 fans in the Arena.
While his professional motivation is to aid Steelers’ commercial cause, the ex pro remains unbiased about on-ice matters, saying: “I’ve played for Panthers, Cardiff Devils and Coventry Blaze, I support all the teams in our league.”