Ben O'Connor to face Sheffield Steelers next season - but who for?

Ben O'Connor's stellar contribution to Great Britain's World Championship campaign has been praised by Sheffield Steelers - but that doesn't mean the two will be reunited next season.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 11:29 am
Great Britain's Ben O'Connor gets stuck in. Picture: Dean Woolley
Great Britain's Ben O'Connor gets stuck in. Picture: Dean Woolley

O'Connor had more ice time against some of the world's best teams than anyone, other than team-mate Mark Richardson.

And he thoroughly enjoyed playing alongside former Steelers' team-mate Davey Phillips on the blue line again.

But any notion of him returning to Sheffield Arena is dead in the water, he says.

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O'Connor denied he had burned any bridges with the club but told The Star: "They no longer want me playing for the team which is fair enough.

"They have made it clear, again, that they want to go in a different direction.

"Playing with Davey is always good, you know what you are going to get from him, he is consistent, solid and I loved playing with him again. But it is not going to happen again for a long time."

O'Connor has a close relationship with the NIHL Sheffield Steeldogs, but is determined his future lies in the EIHL.

"I think I showed in the Worlds that I still have a lot to offer, I have shown I am not done and that I have got some miles left in my legs, yet.

"If I can keep up in Pool A championships I am sure I will be OK in the Elite League" said O'Connor, 32, who played 380 games for Steelers (317 points.)

"I want to stay in this country. I have played abroad, (Canada, France, Kazakhstan, Sweden) been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

"Over here, it is a case of waiting to see what rules are with the League, the budgets with teams and if anyone is interested then I will have those conversations. "You have got to be optimistic, haven't you?"

Away from hockey, O'Connor is a financial adviser, with a growing family.

He said some players had to "sacrifice a lot to play in the Elite League.

"It's almost a year-round obligation, training, weekends...when you have got a family and two kids you have got to put it in perspective.

"I am not going to go away (from his Sheffield base) for nothing, it would have to be something like a very good team to make me move away from here."

Asked whether he could return to Steeldogs, he replied: "I don't know. There are lots of conversations to have. I want to play in the Elite League but we'll just have to see what happens and get something done."

Today, Steelers reiterated their position of 11 months ago, on the subject of O'Connor's current availability.

They said it had been the player that had initially declined terms with the management.

Spokesman Dave Simms said: "Benny walked away from the deal, which was something we very much regretted.

"But now, as then, we wish him well. He was excellent for GB in the World Championships.

"We thank him for his service to our club and hope to see him in the EIHL in the coming season."