Cole Shudra to Leeds Knights, Jason Hewitt to Sheffield, Ben O'Connor to Cardiff Devils?

The Sheffield ice hockey scene is about to undergo a major transformation - and for the city's fans it will mean some good news, some not so good.

By Bob Westerdale
Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 8:22 am
Cole Shudra strtetching before Coventry game Pic by Scott Wiggins
Cole Shudra strtetching before Coventry game Pic by Scott Wiggins

Today it was announced that Cole Shudra, who has been trying to nail down a place on the Steelers' roster for years, is moving down a league to Leeds Knights.

With the number of Brits on EIHL teams being squeezed, his move to the NIHL National division is not completely unexpected. But, on the other hand, city fans would have loved to have seen him over the road at Sheffield Steeldogs.

The Dogs wanted Shudra, 22, - son of Steelers' legend Ron, of course - but they could not compete with Leeds' budget.

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Ben O'Connor. Picture by Podium Prints

However, Shudra has a two-way deal with the Knights, so will be available if and when Steelers call him up.

While the iceSheffield outfit has been out of luck with Shudra, they could be more fortunate with Jason Hewitt

The 698-game Steeler veteran has been player-coach at Hull Pirates for the past few seasons. Pirates won't be able to ice in the NIHL for the upcoming season though, due to renovation at their rink.

Leeds doubtless would have loved to recruit Hewitt - who scored 11 points in 16 games for Steelers in the April mini series, showing his 37 years were not catching up with him.

Jason Hewitt back at Steeldogs? Picture by Podium Prints

The forward remains hugely popular with Sheffield fans and a move to Steeldogs is his most likely option.

While all this has been going on behind the scenes - and at a time when Steelers' youngster Alex Graham discovered he had been drafted by Canada OHL side Niagara IceDogs - outgoing Sheffielder Ben O'Connor's fate has yet to be made public.

His 380th Sheffield game, in the Challenge Cup final against Cardiff Devils, was his final one for Steelers.

The Great Britain defenceman is consumed with the ambition of winning a trophy away from Sheffield Arena - and he may well achieve that if he moves to Cardiff.

The Star believes Todd Kelman's Devils will beat other EIHL clubs to his signature.

With O'Connor being British, Cardiff may bid farewell to Steelers' mini-series centreman Matt Myers, who could end up at Swindon Wildcats.

Steelers meanwhile are keen to underline that Shudra has a part to play for them, saying they will have first call on him if they run into injuries.

Head coach Aaron Fox said: “With reduced roster sizes, us finding a way to get Cole back on a two-way deal was very important.

“We let Cole explore and negotiate what options were best for him in regards to the NIHL team and once he did that Steve Nell and Dave Whistle (at Leeds) were easy to work with on finalising the two-way side of it.

“Cole is a versatile guy who can jump into our line-up whenever we are short benched and I know he can do a great job. It was very important for him to have this as an option as

well and I think we will see him play plenty in orange this upcoming season”.

*The Elite League's 10 teams have agreed to release the schedule for 2021-22 on August 5.