RYAN FINNERTY walked out of Sheffield Arena with an air of dignity lacked by many of the others who have been fired from Steeler posts over the last 20 years.
The coach said he understood it was a results-driven business and bore no grudges. He said he’d feel a sense of involvement in the club should they win a trophy next year, given his part in the creation of a “hard-working, decent group of players.”
The Canadian was toppled from his position by owner Tony Smith on Wednesday. He is looking the possibility of a post in junior hockey in Canada but wouldn’t entirely rule out a move back, some day.
Those expecting a barrage of Finnerty abuse at Smith and the fans - some of whom have given Finnerty a rough ride - will be disappointed. “It’s been a great ride, unbelievable” he said. “Some of my best hockey moments have been in Sheffield. It has been a great apprenticeship and, yes I was upset to go, but I am not a ‘poor-me’ kind of guy. My wife (Heather) has taken it worse than me, but we have so many good memories and probably more friends in the UK than we have in north America.”
Finnerty, formerly at Cardiff Devils, was installed the Summer before last as player coach. “I didn’t ask for the job, but went straight into the deep end. That first year our team was recruited on pennies. Ben Simon (outgoing coach) had laughed at the budget and said you couldn’t play with that. Yet after 54 games we were the League’s second best club. We over-achieved.
“The expectations for last year were win-win-win, which brought pressure, which is fine and how it should be. But people should recognise it (building a title winning team) is a process. You have to build a core, add to it over the years, have stability and then you will have a team like Nottingham Panthers.”
Finnerty accepts he made mistakes in his two seasons: “probably one every hour.”
But some things had been outside of his control. “If when I signed (overweight import) Corey Pecker I’d have known he was going to spend every day at the all-you-could-eat buffet (he was later released) then I’d have thought again about bringing him over.
“I signed (British star) Colin Shields thinking it would be a 10-import rule, but then they changed it. He came and *****d off to Belfast.
“We were inconsistent. And that sort of thing falls at the feet of the coach; I have to bear that responsibility. But when Shields went, we could bring in players like Simon Ferguson and Chris Frank and we had a different dynamic.
“Would I come back to the Elite League? It’s too soon to know...but never say never.”