War is breaking out between Sheffield’s top two ice hockey clubs.
Steelers’ official David Simms has described Steeldogs’ coach Andre Payette’s remarks about Elite League players as “criminal” and claimed it would be a “disaster” for Rod Sarich, if he joined the English Premier outfit.
Payette had initially told The Star that his players play with passion “and block shots that you don’t see at the Elite League level.” He added: “My lads play for Sheffield, they don’t play for their pay cheques.”
The remarks infuriated Simms, who suggested there was little “substance” in what “naive” Payette had implied. “For him to question the passion and heart of professional players at Steelers is not only wrong but unfounded. All credit to Ben Morgan for blocking shots but this is what the likes of Jason Hewitt and Jonathan Phillips have been doing for almost a decade at the top level.
“I am fed up with him playing on the Sheffield heart strings about playing with passion.
“I’m sure Steeldogs players do and so they should, but to suggest there is a lack of passion at the EIHL level shows his naivety. Over the years Steelers players have shown passion and above all quality in their play that has seen them rise to the top of the game.
“In Ashley Tait, Phillips, Mark Thomas, Hewitt and Robert Dowd we have had the top British players who represented both club and country in European and World Championships. These are professionals who quietly go about their business. They don’t feel the need to be detrimental about their little brother who tries to hang off their coat tails. To question their passion is criminal.
“The sacrifices they have made to play for a living wage - no one gets rich playing hockey - should be admired. I read that they would like Rod Sarich to play for them and whilst the Steelers have no right to suggest a career plan for him I can’t help but think this would be a disaster for Rod, a consummate professional who prided himself on quality training and preparation.
“He has left a legacy at the Arena that would be diminished playing for Andre. If I fancied a good night out Andre would be at the top of my call list.
“However if I need someone to advise Steelers on a brand of hockey or how to attract fan support I will politely scroll down from his number.
“The Steeldogs have a place in the city’s sporting and recreational scene but don’t compare them and their set-up to the Steelers.”
Ironically, Steelers take on Hull Stingrays - who have a loose association with Steeldogs - at Dogs’ home rink, iceSheffield tonight.
Hull Player-coach Sylvain Cloutier has told his side they must have belief.
Stingrays head into their latest Challenge Cup tie on the back of a 4-3 home defeat by Cardiff Devils which has left them without a point from two Group B games.
Cloutier said: “Sheffield is a big game for us now. They beat Edinburgh 10-3 so they certainly have some firepower. We will need to be on our best behaviour and stay out of the box. They have the best powerplay in the league and they have a lot of skilled, dangerous guys.
“We must make sure we compete to give ourselves a chance. We snuck through the group last year by beating Cardiff twice and getting a point in Coventry and after losing our first two games we must now try and steal some points on the road.
“We have done it before and we must have the belief in the room that we can go there and get something. We have had success in that rink before and there is no reason why we cannot again this year. The pressure is all on them. They have signed a team to challenge for all the trophies.”
Stingrays will welcome back Canadian defenceman Jeff Smith, who missed the reverse by Cardiff to attend a funeral.