Jody Lehman cares almost as much for Steelers as he did when he commanded the crease with distinction between 2005 and 2009.
That much was clear when he requested to give the pre-game speech to the modern day class of 2015 before Saturday’s win over Nottingham Panthers, Sheffield’s first victory in the NIA this year.
While that wish wasn’t granted, coach Gerad Adams did permit him to make the after-game presentation.
Lehman, who starred in more than 200 Sheffield games, told the team that they’d shown the will to win which marked them out as genuine Steelers - a combination of grit and skill that forges champions.
Lehman, Scott Basiuk, Steve Munn and Randy Dagenais had all been in the stands watching the 3-2 win, ahead of guesting in tomorrow’s Mark Thomas testimonial.
They were probably more nervous than the players - Munn describing the experience as ‘surreal.’
What they witnessed was a Steeler special-team performance which rated up there with some of the great days they’d been involved in.
Steelers are now one point behind leaders Braehead...with a game in hand. They scored two on the Power Play, one short-handed.
Panthers scored first on 26 minutes, (Guillaume Doucet) and it wasn’t long after that Gord Baldwin and Robert Farmer got stuck in with a punch-up.
Doucet had another chance on the next attack but Josh Unice covered it this time.
Sheffield turned up the heat on a Power Play, Mathieu Roy hits the post before Ben O’Connor levelled with a fine shot at 34;45 from the face off circle, over Mattias Modig’s glove.
And then the defining moment of the match: Roy scored shorthanded breaking clear of two opponents before beating Modig for 2-1 with just 30 seconds of the middle period to go.
It was a formidable psychological advantage to take into the break win them.
Yet at 47;23 it was all square again. Robert Farmer pinched the puck and set up Greg Jacina for 2-2. Jeff Legue, Jason Hewitt and Tomas Petruska and Baldwin all tested Modig before Petruska tipped in a Mike Forney slapshot at 56:30.
It was the first win all season at the sold-out NIC - a night to remember for the old boys in the stands.
One to cherish to for Unice too, he stopped 28 shots, although he said his team-mates had barely given away any other quality chances.
n Big hearted Nottingham fans led a minute-long applause for inspirational Amy Usher, the 21-year-old Steelers fan who is battling with cancer - a classy act which threw sporting rivalries to one side.
Sunday 15th February
Coventry Blaze 3 Belfast Giants 2
Dundee Stars 2 Cardiff Devils 4
Hull Stingrays 5 Fife Flyers 4