Dave Simms' Steelers column: A number of thank-yous after another championship-winning campaign
What a last week. Wins in Nottingham and then against the Panthers and the Flyers, to secure a record-breaking fifth championship.
Seeing my best mate, head coach Paul Thompson, complete the job and lift his fifth league title as well... after the pressure he has been under.
What a job he has done this year; coaching, managing, organising. A man in control.
Sitting and talking with Jason Hewitt and Jeff Legue as they announce their retirement. Hewitt after 11 seasons, Legue nine – they have been part of my life for a decade. Part of our club’s history. Such is their effect that, actually, they are now a major part of the Steelers’ DNA – never to be forgotten, always remembered. Top players but, more than that, the very best of people.
I sit back this week and reflect a little. There were 9,100 in the Arena last Saturday. We didn’t think 9,000 was possible for a non-Boxing Day game - and we were wrong. I see a Steelers club more stable, more organised, more focussd, more in control of its own destiny than ever before in its 25-year history.
Thompson was asked to bring exciting hockey to the Arena, he delivered and that has had an effect on crowds for sure. He was also asked to manage the hockey side of the business, take it away from the front office staff so we could concentrate on the Steelers business.
Yes, winning is vital but Thompson delivering on that part of the job, the ownership of the hockey side of the business should be his biggest achievement. There isn’t a trophy for that, though; you don’t get pats on the back for that part of the job.
By Paul doing that, though, the business has grown, the crowds have increased, our stability has strengthened and now we stand on concrete foundations for the first time in two and a half decades.
The Smith/Thompson combination is the one we have been looking for. It took Tony a while, but he stood by his convictions and made moves until he was happy with what he had. He is happy now.
Changes are a coming again, though. Last year Mark Thomas left us; this year, Hewitt and Legue will depart as the life circle goes on. Hewitt and Legue haven’t just been two players, they have been two reasons. Two reasons why we won, two reasons why we continued to win. The dressing room will be a different place without them, certainly quieter without Jason.
God, does he love this club. He could go and play for other EIHL teams tomorrow. But he has decided that if not the Steelers, then it’s nothing at all. I love that. I love him.
I love how much he cares for my hockey club. They don’t make Jason Hewitts any more. More is the pity that, in this PC age, this age of conformity, that characters like him are disappearing.
How many times have we needed a goal, a big moment, and just looked for Jeff Legue? Took him for granted. Expected the magical moment. The goal against Belfast that secured a championship. Game winners, Championship winners like last year’s against Cardiff. He did it last week; a must-win game in a sold-out Nottingham barn. The first goal is vital, and who pops up and scores it? Simple, Jeff Legue.
How do you replace Jeff Legue? God, we will miss him as well.
On Sunday the Arena faithful will get their chance to say thank you - hopefully with the play off series against Coventry going in our favour, the two guys will have one last crack at a championship in the play off finals next week. Wow... what a way to go out!
So thank yous all around. To the Steelers for winning a championship, for Paul Thompson for turning our club around, to Tony and the Smith family for putting the stability in place for the club to grow the way it has, and to Jeff Legue and Jason Hewitt for being simply fantastic for the past decade.
We owe you so much. Thank you.