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