Simmsy's Steelers Column: Sheffield's ice hockey stars must keep their eyes on the main prize
The NHL play offs take up a very maximum of 28 games.
The Elite Ice Hockey League play offs take up 60 games.
Now I know you will all say our play offs at the end of the season take up just four games but the play offs over here are an after-thought, lovely to win, give you the best of feelings but really there is only one prize and that is the league title.
To win that it’s 60 Game 7s. Every night you are determining your club’s chances of being that number one club.
This season even more so. Conferencing out of the window, no more easy points for Fife and Glasgow without Edinburgh in the league. Manchester now have to play the big boys the same as we do. There is no hiding place this year in the Elite League and people that suits the Sheffield Steelers, as it does the other major players.
My message to 14 of our new 16 signings – Jackson Whistle and Chris Lawrence already know this – is that the regular season doesn’t exist here, this in Great Britain, this is a 60-game full on play off series to win a league title. It isn’t possible to win the league in September but it is possible to lose it.
I don’t think there was a better introduction for our new team than last Saturday night in Nottingham. It was the perfect start against the perfect team in the perfect building. Maybe it was even the perfect result. A 5-2 Challenge Cup loss. A reminder that this is for real.
Those who thought they knew what the Elite League was like, thought they knew the standard quickly realised that this is a proper league with proper players and proper coaches.
This is real, maybe not the NHL, SHL or KHL but this league is right up there in competitiveness and it’s only going to get stronger and more difficult to win.
There might only be five teams that can win this league, yes folks we have a new side joining the big boys, but there are 11 teams who will have a huge say in who lifts the trophy in March. Take any one of them lightly and you are doomed.
The fifth side that joins Sheffield, Cardiff, Nottingham and Belfast are the Guildford Flames.
They have retained their best players, players all the top four tried to sign this summer by the way and then they have added quality to them. Don’t let them kid you with “small club syndrome” the Guildford Flames have the quality and the spending power to deliver.
This Saturday the Steelers begin their league campaign with a home opener against Milton Keynes Lightning, it’s one of the club’s special £5 games – you can’t beat a £5 ticket on a Saturday night can you?
Milton Keynes are one of those teams who have the ability to beat every other team in the league.
They don’t have the depth to do it over 60 games but when at full strength they will be more than a handful. This Saturday armed with four former Steelers (Tim Wallace, Andreas Valdix, Cole Shudra and Eric Neiley) they will be at full strength, ready and motivated to give the Steelers a bloody nose.
The message from the Steelers, who will be skating on their new arena ice for the first time is simple. Stay professional, stay structured and most importantly stay disciplined. 5 on 5 we win this opening game.
At the end of last season the Steelers took needed and dramatic action to completely remodel their team.
Last Saturday and the four weeks leading up to this weekend were all part of the that restructuring. All part of being as ready as possible for this coming Saturday when the season starts for real – the league season.
Hockey more than any other sport is played around the world heading to a play off conclusion to reward the best side. Anywhere except here in the UK. We reward the league champions.
It’s the league champions that get progression in to the Champions Hockey league, the only country that this happens in.
We value that more than any club, we have won more league titles than any other EIHL side, it’s the league that is our DNA, it doesn’t make part of the DNA it is our DNA. We judge ourselves, our captains, our coaches, our players, our club by their league performances and legends are made by those who achieve the success of lifting that Elite League trophy.
To all of our players and coaches, we believe in you and we are here to support you every inch of the way. In return we ask just one thing and that is for you to give us everything you have for the next 32 weeks. Do that and I’m confident we will be successful.
Steelers open at home at the Fly DSA (Sheffield) Arena this Saturday Vs. Milton Keynes Lightning. All tickets £5. Face Off 7pm.