Matt promises to protect Steelers teammates

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MATT Stephenson says he will continue to stand up for himself - and teammates - after two punch-ups on Sheffield Steelers’ ice.

The 27-year-old Canadian defenceman arrived in Sheffield’s team at the start of this season with a repuation as a strong, reliable defenceman - but his willingness to drop the gloves has been an added bonus for coach Ryan Finnerty and the Sheffield Arena fans.

Last weekend he fought with American forward Dominic Osman, and he battled with Chris Zarb when the Dundee Stars skater injured Jonathan Phillips with a ‘kneeing’ incident which put the Welshman out of the game for months.

Of the Osman fight, Stephenson explained: “The reason for the fight was bad blood that boiled over from the last time we played.

“It was behind the play and he kind of hit me, awkwardly and it wasn’t really a fair hit. I had to leave that game, it hurt, so it boiled over.

“I told him we were going to fight and he obliged.

“That says a lot for a guy like him, he was happy to oblige, it shows he has a lot of character and shows he is a good guy to show up and do that. It’s over now.”

Stephenson said that he doesn’t like to fight “too often” but added: “You’ve got to protect yourself.

“The last few years I haven’t shied away from a fight.

“Jonathan Phillips got hit cheaply so obviously if I’m on the ice I’m coming in and (last Sunday) when Hewy (Jason Hewitt) got hit I would have fought then, had he not got up and done it himself

“It’s a tight-knit community and we stand up for each other. That’s the way it’s got to be.”

“Every year, the number of (his) fights goes up and down. In my first pro year I had about then 10. In the ECHL I had a lot, in the AHL only one or two (opponents) would fight and they are all big heavyweights, so I’d get around five a year and they tended to be bigger guys and it didn’t normally go too well for me! But it doesn’t matter who it is, I’ll step up if I have to.”