Simmsey column: Route 66 to exhaustion for Sheffield Steelers

Sheffield Steelers are running on empty: Picture: Marie Caley
Sheffield Steelers are running on empty: Picture: Marie Caley
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Wednesday night was Game 66 for the Sheffield Steelers.

The Steelers are on course for an 82-85 game season – and we wonder why we have injuries!

It’s an incredible number of games but one our league depends on.

Clubs’ major source of revenue is “bums on seats” generated from having more games. Rinks and Arenas want us to play more game because of the rent clubs pay and the secondary spend received by them on these events (beers, teas, coffee, burgers, car parking etc).

Clubs need more players, better players and they cost more. More games means more equipment used by more players and this costs more. Those players live in more rented flats and house, you’ve got it by now haven’t you – that costs more. So the only way to pay for this is more games.

It means that there will be times some teams are pretty much being put together by doctors and physios and held together by a thread.

That is where the Steelers are right now, down to bare bones with the likes of Fretter, Armstrong, Dowd and Fransilla all out of action.

Many will say “They play 80 games in the NHL” and then 16 teams play in the play offs. Last year Pittsburgh played 82 league games and 25 in the Stanley Cup – that’s 107 games, but they did it with 36 skaters and four goalies.

As we stand the Steelers have used 25 players and two goalies. This include three kids, Kirk, Shudra and Brown. Without Liam and Cole right now we would have been down to numbers that would have been both dangerous and uncompetitive.

So perhaps a little perspective is needed on where the Steelers are at right now. On Sunday the Steelers lost their first home game in 10, their third loss on 16 games but as I left I heard again rumblings of discontent. Come on people these guys are giving us everything they have! They are punch-drunk right now. Out on their feet. Wednesday night saw them go into Cardiff yes 4 goals up after the first leg but not necessarily favourites to progress to the final with the under-strength line up they are forced to put out.

What’s the answer? We are so strong on domestic competition do we say thank you but no thank you to the invitations to both the Champions League and Continental Cup – look what the Continental Cup did to Nottingham’s season last year.

I love both of those competitions but the reality is they are killers especially if you have injuries. Cardiff played the CHL this year but have been pretty healthy since, good on them. I’m just asking the question how do we keep the standard up, how do we pay the same salaries, how do we continue to put a product on like we saw last Saturday in front of 8,500 fans at the Arena and in the process, reduce the number of games but raise the same revenue?

Any answers?

The Buffalo Sabres were at the Arena all last weekend, the latest NHL side to watch Liam Kirk. Will they draft him? Who knows but they seemed pretty keen. It’s the fifth NHL scout that has visited these shores to look at the young #14.

There are thousands of brilliant youngsters similar to Kirky who could be drafted however few of them are playing in men’s leagues. Many are still playing in same age leagues around the world. This is what is interesting the NHL clubs. Kirky is playing in a AHL standard league already.

I’m a Steelers man, my life begins and ends with the club so I am torn. Part of me wants him to stay, be a club legend, score hundreds of goals for us and in 20 years time have his shirt raised to the rafters.

I’m also a huge fan of the kid and nothing would make me happier than seeing him fulfil his potential and live out his dream of becoming an NHL player. If he does then what an impact that will have, showing all the young kids playing today that it is possible to go all the way.

It will also tell all those kids up and down the land that the Sheffield Steelers will give you that chance.

People laughed and shook their heads when we took Liam and Cole and made them apprentices.

Paul Thompson had this dream for years. He knew we couldn’t rely on the present system for bringing kids through and had to take control ourselves.

He did, we did. Those kids should look to the Steelers and think “they gave Liam a shot, I want to play there, train there every day, work with their players, coaches and trainers.”

So for the first year ever I will watch the draft, if I’m wearing my Orange Steelers T shirt I will be hoping I don’t hear Liam’s name, but I think this year I will sit in the PJ’s and keep my fingers crossed that I do hear it.