TO be spoken of in the same breath as Ron Shudra and Tommy Plommer is an honour indeed: ask any Sheffield Steelers’ fans.
Now GB defenceman Mark Thomas can justifiably be associated with those two mega-popular imports of yesteryear.
For on Saturday at Fife, Thomas, who joined the club in 2005-6 from London Racers, will become Sheffield’s second most-capped player, overtaking Plommer’s 462 appearances. Present day team-mate Jason Hewitt is just one behind his fellow Mancunian.
We asked Thomas, 29, to pick out his five best moments:
Arriving at Steelers. I was a player with London. We were going bust. Steelers had lost 5-1 in Nottingham on Saturday and I got a call from then-coach Dennis Maxwell saying ‘Get to Sheffield – You’re playing tomorrow.” I was nervous but we did better, tying Giants 2-2
I scored two against Nottingham Panthers and loved it! I was new to the Sheffield v Nottingham thing. We had an incredible night winning 7-1 and I scored twice. I didn’t sleep much that night.
Play Off win at Nottingham. We’d beaten Coventry the year before in the play off finals and were returning as defending champions to take on Nottingham. As top seed we had choice of which bench/dressing room/uniform. They were crying about “their” dressing room and “their” bench so we decided they could have first choice of everything. We didn’t care, just shut them out 2-0. It was electric. There was a brawl in warm-up; a real animosity between the teams. Jody Lehman had his shut out and jumped into the Panthers’ fans – love that guy!”
Two Championships and two sons: This club has built it’s reputation on winning the league. There’d been pressure on us. It had been three years since the trophy had come home. So to win my first league title, under Dave Matsos, was exceptional. It was the year my son, Bailey, was born. A couple of years later we did it again under Ben Simon - another championship, another son, Harley.
Goals: Everyone knows I don’t score many but I had a period where every one I got seemed to be a big goal and did I love milking it! To score in overtime at home against Nottingham is a dream. You know how much it means to everyone. The fans are jumping around, your wife and kids are screaming and most of all the emotion of your team mates. One of my favourite photos is moments after the winner against Nottingham. Jason Hewitt grabs me and we fell to the ice. We came here together from London and there we were beating Panthers in OT.
Then there was Cardiff. The league title was going to the wire, we were a point behind them, we needed to win and our remaining games to clinch a title. The puck came to me. I saw traffic in front of the goal and let it go. I didn’t see it. Neither did their goalie. The say it was the goal that won the championship. Everyone except Hewitt who thinks his against Belfast was.”