SHEFFIELD Steeldogs coach Andre Payette has spoken of his disappointment that Steelers winger Neil Clark did not want to step down a division and play for his side.
The EPL team approached Clark when the Canadian was frozen out of Ryan Finnerty’s starting line up. Steelers have one import more than regulations allow and Clark only plays for the Elite side when there are injuries.
That fact sparked interest from the iceSheffield side, but it fizzled out. “We did everything we could to acquire Clark,” said Payette, who today signed a Latvian foward, Raivis Kurnigins, instead. “Clark would have been a big asset and the move would have been good for everybody. We had discussions with Ryan (Finnerty, Steelers coach) because it doesn’t look like Clark will be playing much there. Ryan tried to help us but it didn’t happen.
“Maybe Clark just wants to wait and see what will happen for him at Steelers. In my opinion a hockey player should want to play hockey, but that is Clark’s prerogative.”
Payette said his home grown side would have been an interesting proposition for Clark, who is studying at Sheffield University: “He could have been a leader for us.”
Asked if it was possible an Elite League player would view a drop into the second-flight EPL as a stain on his career, Payette said: “I was drafted by an NHL team (Philadelphia Flyers; 1994) and I play in it. It’s a good league with some of the best British players in the country.
“EPL clubs only have four imports so they are more valuable and earn more money. I bet Guildford Flames’ import earn more than 90 per cent of imports at Steelers do.
“I honestly believe that the EPL’s top four teams would beat the three bottom sides in the Elite League every night and when we played Steelers and Hull Stingrays in exhibition matches this season we certainly weren’t embarrassed.”
Payette said Kurnigins, 22, was second leading scorer in the Latvian league and would be an impact player for Dogs. He has been playing for Zemgale in Latvia so far this season. “This guy doesn’t speak a word of English - it should be interesting,” said the coach.