Sheffield Steelers fans heaved a sigh of relief today as they unveiled Ashley Tait as player assistant coach for the 2011-12 season.
The defection to Belfast Giants of British winger Rob Dowd sent alarm bells ringing at the club - as the need to keep their best homegrown players is essential to their chances of defending the Elite League title successfully.
New coach coach Ryan Finnerty was happy and relieved to have signed up 35-year-old Tait, currently on GB duty. He plans to use him as much off the ice as on it. Anyone who wouldn’t use the services of Ashley in the coaching office is crazy” said Finnerty.
“I’m delighted to be working alongside him again. He has a big job to play here and I can’t wait for us to bang our heads together and make this Steelers’ team the best there is. Ash has so much experience and respect in the game, we will feed off each other that’s for sure.
“Ash was due to work closely with (former boss) Ben Simon last season. I am looking for him to play an even bigger part alongside me, both in the summer months as we recruit and in the winter when the season begins. His role will be more than just an assistant, I respect and trust his views on the game. He knows what it takes to win and make those around him winners.”
It will be Tait’s fourth season in five years with the Steelers. Last season Tait led British scoring for all Steelers players with 78 points - only imports Jeff Legue and Joey Talbot recorded more..
Tait said: “This will be a bigger role than the one I had last season” said Tait. “Last year I signed as an assistant under Dave Matsos, someone I knew and had a relationship with. Then things changed and it took a while for Ben and I to develop our partnership properly. Of course I know Finner well and right off the bat we are on the same page on so many issues.
“I’m also involved at a much earlier stage and already Ryan and I have talked about players, recruitment and lots of other things that we think we can do to give the team the best chance to win. I’m excited about it, its a new page in my career. I’m not ready to hang up the skates but of course have one eye on life after playing and for me that means coaching. I think the partnership is a good one, both of us will work well with each other. I’m sure our hard work over the last few days will pay off shortly and the fans will have something good to read about many returning players in the days ahead.”