So the Steelers are Elite League Play Off Champions – for a record equalling 10th time (in just 21 years) - some record isn’t it?
Sunday’s final was epic, a double overtime win over the league champions Cardiff Devils.
A couple of secrets to share with you:
1) Five guys had prior injections just to play in that game 2) Levi Nelson broke down at the end of the fourth period, the Dr, the physio, the trainers all working on him. Out came the biggest needle I’ve seen in a while – my Mum would have knitted with smaller. Levi screamed for the needle – he was desperate to play.
Paul Thompson looked at him said “you can’t go” Levi replied “I’m going” so the rest is history – the needle went in and 20 minutes later that broken, tired body raced over the blue line and fired the puck over the shoulder of Ben Bowns to win the play offs.
Levi shouldn’t have been at the play off finals. His knees so damaged that he should have had surgery weeks ago. He refused, he played on. Like Fitzy, like Fretter, like Valdix. Warriors, the lot of them.
A week earlier 4-0 down in Nottingham. Brian McGrattan the Panthers tough NHL forward mocked Steelers and our fans after scoring. He was probably on a beach somewhere when Nelson, a former line mate of McGrattan scored the championship winning goal.
This Steelers team has been accused of not having character, well I think they put that one to rest!
So more of the same please, which is why the club announced yesterday the return of coach Paul Thompson and assistant Jerry Andersson. Both return on two-year contracts. Thompson has delivered two championships in two years. He has also taken Steelers to a new high in terms of preparation and professionalism.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with every Steelers coach over the last 26 years. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. Some still friends. My favourite time was under Mike Blaisdell. I’ve never laughed as much in my life. Ryan Finnerty, Alex Dampier the same. People who devoted their life to Steelers whilst in Sheffield.
I enjoyed my time with Gerad Adams and Paul Heavey, Rob Stewart was a quiet but funny man. Don McKee put 25 hours in a day. The Doug Christiansen experiment just didn’t work but it wasn’t from the lack of trying.
If I could pick one though, one I thought was the best it would be Paul. I made a comment when he signed that he was “head and shoulders” the best coach we have had and I stand by that. The game has moved on and Paul brings the best of the “old school” that I like with the best of the “new modern way” which is now the way forward. Ultra-prepared, incredible work ethic, massively knowledgeable and always looking to get better.
Jerry is the perfect foil. An incredibly experienced man. A great pair of eyes and hockey mind.
Tomorrow another new signing will be confirmed. Over the next week a few more as well as Thompson brings back a strong core. Of course some changes will be made, we didn’t win the league so we can’t rest on our laurels. Cardiff will get better, so will Nottingham, Belfast and the rest of the league. We have to get better too and we will.
The Steelers is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, 52-week of the year business. It doesn’t stop, it doesn’t close down. It’s great to win, but we move on.