I feel a little uncomfortable when I swear in front of him, said captain Jonathan Phillips.
“I’m sure he doesn’t mind,” he said, “but you just feel it isn’t right. Freddie is just so nice and polite.”
This is the skipper of the Steelers referring to the Swedish forward, Fredrik Vestberg, who has gone quietly and professionally about his business all year. Head coach Paul Thompson calls him ‘The Fixer’ because when a line has had troubles, he has been put on it to fix it.
I think it took a while for Steeler fans to appreciate the 33-year-old. He wasn’t the swashbuckling all action hero that Levi Nelson was; not the prolific goalscorer that Mathieu Roy was. He was a quiet, diligent, smooth skater who always happened to be in the right place at the right time. Defensively responsible and also capable of goals at important times; like the breakaway goal in Braehead, followed by a game winning penalty shot.
“I can play him on any line, with anyone, at any time,” says Thompson - that’s the kind of a trust a coach loves to have with his players.
As the year has gone on Vestberg’s qualities have become more apparent; 12 goals and 36 points in an ever-present 52 games doesn’t tell the full story. Night in, night out, his consistency have been massive strengths.
Fredrik is never out of position, always behind the puck whilst his two most constant line mates, Dowd and Nelson, have rampaged forward. In recent weeks, with Dowd out of the line up, Levi and Fredrik have been joined by a second Swede, Conny Stromberg. An interesting character. A 40 year old former superstar who still has the hands and the brain to make the quickest of plays. Vestberg’s game changes as the line dynamics change.
Freddie has to link more with Conny. We have seen the results as the two Swedes combine like Agnetha and Freda used to do on Abba harmonies. Nelson and Dowd used to be ‘heads down and charge.’ Nelson and Stromberg is different. Stromberg’s head is on a 360 degree swivel; this means we will see another side of the Vestberg game in the final few weeks of this season. A man for all occasions.
If the Steelers confirmed Vestberg’s signing for next season, we’d all feel comfortable that we were in safe hands. He is like driving a Volvo; he makes you feel secure and safe. He isn’t sexy and flash but dependable and reliable. We can play rock music in a Volvo, we can drive a Volvo in nothing but our underwear if we want, but we need the security of the Volvo to do that. Vestberg is that security.
Whilst Freddie is an unassuming gentleman, he is also respected, admired and liked by everyone at the club. When he does speak, the room falls silent and everyone listens. You win with Fredrik Vestbergs. You are a better team, a better club with his like.
Again Vestberg will be a key component this weekend in the back to back games against Cardiff Devils.
Sheffield can turn the EIHL table on its head should they beat the Devils twice in 24 hours. Cardiff will be all but champions should they inflict a double defeat of Vestberg and his team mates. That’s how important this weekend is.
It is in weekends like this you find out more about your team, your troops, their character. I think we know this weekend - like we have known every weekend - that we don’t have to worry about Fredrik Vestberg. Now where is my Waterloo CD...?