sheffield Steelers have signed Ryan Finnerty as their new player coach - the lightning-fast appointment coming just two days after league-winning boss Ben Simon quit.
Finnerty comes from club owner Paul Ragan’s other club, Cardiff Devils - although he was a fans’ favourite in Sheffield for two and a half seasons.
‘Finner’ wants a “younger, hungry team” next year and will spend the Summer filling spots left vacant by retiring players and those who move on. He will doubtless go for a team in his own playing image: tough and feisty. But how will he cope with the change from skater to player-coach?
“That’s the million dollar question” admitted the 30-year-old Canadian. “There are new responsibilities and there’s going to be a transition period but I am comfortable that I will be surrounded by guys who will help me adjust. Last year I helped out G (Gerad Adams, Devils coach) in a leadership role, he took me under his wing and mentored me. I learned a lot from him but this is going to be a big challenge. I am confident we can put a good product on the ice and build a younger, hard working, gritty and hard-nosed team here.”
Finnerty stressed that while he wanted “young blood” - he was not going to change the corps of players that wanted to stay.
He pointed at the success double-winning Nottingham Panthers have enjoyed with the likes of 25-year-old American forwards Rob Bellamy and Billy Ryan.
“Some of our guys will be pondering moves. And you cannot replace somebody like Steve Munn with like-for-like,” he said. “But we will be trying to match his intensity and the energy of Bellamy and Ryan - who are hard to play against night after night.”
Simon quit because he felt his own wage as player coach would leave too little in the pot for the rest of the squad. Finnerty said: “I am not going into Ben’s contract. If that’s what he felt that’s his business. The wage cap has gone down, meaning you have to recruit smarter. While the cap is down, we’re not working with the bottom end, here. It’s a reasonable budget - any suggestion that we are suddenly down the bare bones is complete rubbish.”
n Steelers forward Jason Hewitt believes GB’s two exhibition games against Holland this weekend will set the tone ahead of the World Championships. “These games are more than warm ups, they will show (coach) Paul Thompson that he has the right players in the right spots. I love the whole GB experience, it means everything to play for my country. We want to go into next week’s training camp on the back of two wins, full of confidence ahead of a tough World Championship group.”