Ice hockey column: Junior hitch for Sheffield Steelers?

Sheffield Steelers owner Tony Smith, with Jason Hewitt  (l) and Mark Thomas
Sheffield Steelers owner Tony Smith, with Jason Hewitt (l) and Mark Thomas
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The formation of a new under-20 ice hockey league - which was supposed to be one of the reasons why Sheffield Steelers made such an unexpected coaching change recently - looks like it won’t happen in time for next season, after all.

Gerad Adams was removed from his post - in favour of a man whose name will be revealed publicly tomorrow by the club - because owner Tony Smith thought the new league, club expansion and the European Champions League would be too big an ask for the Canadian.

But it now seems likely that the junior programme won’t be anywhere near ready for the start of season 2015-16.

The new league is important because the ruling body, the IIHF, says any country taking part in future World Championships has to have such a programme. If, as expected, it won’t happen any time soon, it will be another grim irony for outgoing coach Gerad Adams, who this week expressed disappointment at the way his sacking had discussed publicly by the club.

That will at least give the new incoming coach more chance to concentrate on the team-rebuild which has to start gathering pace now.

Any coach will tell you that a championship winning team, as Steelers were last year, produces Summer problems: the players want more money as recognition if they stay, or they are more confident in finding employment in more lucrative clubs or countries. Plus the new coach, rumoured to be ex Coventry boss Paul Thompson, may want to bring in players from his own former club.

The change at the top at Steelers has, oddly enough, been mirrored at Sheffield Steeldogs. The EPL side ended their five year association with Andre Payette.

Owner Shane Smith said: “The Steeldogs were a young team struggling to win games before Andre arrived in November 2010. We brought him in as a player but he took over as coach and helped us to improve the product on the ice and in developing young players. The team hasn’t achieved the same levels since and in a league that has progressed in the past couple of years, the Steeldogs need a fresh start, to re-focus on who we are and what we are about.

“I think a new coach is fundamental to developing the club so with regret we are releasing Andre.

“I want to place on record my thanks for the work he did in building the club and wish him all the best for the future.”

The new man in at iceSheffield is former Hull player Dominic Osman - he faces a tough time if he is hoping to mend fences with Steelers, who seem to have little time for their neighbours.