A sad farewell to popular Sheffield Steelers' forward

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It was tough to say a Steelers' goodbye to Tomáš Pitule.

The no-nonsense centreman was a particular favourite of Sheffield coach Aaron Fox, not least for his dedication and selfless performances.

His age and focus on a single role as a centreman weighed against him, though.

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And with other centres arriving at the club - in what will be a very different-looking side from last season - Pitule, aged 33, failed to make the cut.

Tomas Pitule. Pic by Hayley RobertsTomas Pitule. Pic by Hayley Roberts
Tomas Pitule. Pic by Hayley Roberts

"Tomas was a first-class quality character and I can’t say enough positive things about working with him," said Fox.

"His compete level set him apart and he was a team-first player.

"We just decided to look to get a little younger and maybe a little more versatile as he was most effective only as a centre."

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Pitule played 61 times for Sheffield last season, scoring ten goals and ten assists.

In League action, the forward was a healthy plus 8, in the plus-minus statistics.

He follows fellow-Czech Martin Latal out the Arena door; Latal having signed for Cracovia Krakow of Poland.

Meanwhile, coach Fox says Cole Shudra's ability to play attack and defence means he will be: "our primary swing option on short-term basis."

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Shudra's form for Leeds Knights' last year showed how good he can be as a forward, but Steelers would likely turn to him if there was an injury on defence in the early stages of 2023-24.

In the longer term, Fox would use his Injury Reserve quota to provide cover, the coach said.

It is a feather in the cap of 6ft 2ins Shudra, who has plenty of role models to turn to, in his quest for consistency and success at Sheffield.

Asked who had influenced him most, he replied: "Jonathan Phillips and Robert Dowd have been great leaders on and off the ice.

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"To be around them and learn from them and see what they are doing has helped a lot.

"I have taken pointers and asked loads of questions, it's been about being a sponge and taking on board as much as possible.

"I look up to guys like that and want to be like that."

The contribution of strength and conditioning coach Mike Mawer has aided Shudra too.

"I am always in touch with him, like his brother he is amazing to work with, he understands hockey and how to get the best out of us. He is definitely an honour to work with.

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"I feel really confident. There are always areas to improve on, you always want to be faster and stronger, and want to be as ready as possible."

*Canada, the world's number one, will be Great Britain's first opponents in the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship campaign in Czechia.


Saturday, May 11 – GB v Canada

Sunday, May 12 – Finland v GB

Wednesday, May 15 – Switzerland v GB

Friday, May 17 – GB v Denmark

Saturday, May 18 – Czechia v GB

Monday, May 20 – GB v Norway

Tuesday, May 21 – Austria v GB