Sheffield Steelers will keep a spot open for Ben O'Connor...for a while

Ben O'Connor - trying to say positiveBen O'Connor - trying to say positive
Ben O'Connor - trying to say positive
Sheffield Steelers were quick to put a metaphorical arm around the shoulders of Ben O'Connor when his dream move to the prestige KHL fell through.

Over the weekend, it was revealed the offensive blue liner’s previously-announced ‘transfer’ to Kazakh side Barys Astana had been derailed by a change of heart and a change of Presidency overseas.

While Astana must now stump up compensation to O’Connor, the GB defenceman- 30 in December - is ambitious by nature and wants to protect his family in what is a short playing career.

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Paul Thompson - has a place for the momentPaul Thompson - has a place for the moment
Paul Thompson - has a place for the moment

O’Connor said: “It was heartbreaking to get the news from my agent, but hockey is a business and it is what it is.

“I’d love to get another chance in the KHL, it would have been a pivotal move for me and good for British hockey.

“But I don’t know what happens next, I’ll leave that to my agent.

Sheffield have been good, they said if I ever wanted to come back they’d be interested, they’re always very supportive.

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“I have to do what is best for me and my family. It would be silly not to see what is out there.

“And I understand there will be a time span for Sheffield, too.

“Paul (Thompson; coach) is putting a team together and the window for that will close at some point, which I completely understand.

“We just have to do what is best for each of us.”

O’Connor said arrangements for him and his wife had been well in hand for a move to Kazakhstan, where he’d played hockey before.

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“Everything was set, but I was a casualty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time” he said.

“But I get good support from family and others and I plan to stay positive. When one door closes, hopefully another two will open.”

O’Connor was Steelers’ top point scorer last season and it was a huge loss for the Arena club when it was announced the Kazakhs had recruited him.

Linemate Davey Phillips described him as “irreplaceable” as a non-import.

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But all that could conceivably changed if the player doesn’t get the offer he wants.

Meanwhile, Sheffield have agreed terms with an import defenceman and forward - and details are likely to be confirmed soon.

Coach Thompson has described the player market as “slow” - but that could all change quite quickly.