Could Sheffield Steeldogs snap up Steelers legends?

On the face of it, they have two chances: slim and none.

By Bob Westerdale
Friday, 11th June 2021, 12:57 pm
Ben O'Connor ins Sheffield Steelers colours. Picture: Dean Woolley
Ben O'Connor ins Sheffield Steelers colours. Picture: Dean Woolley

That's how domestic ice hockey would rate Sheffield Steeldogs' prospects of doing a 'Steeler makeover' and lining up two Arena legends for their side.

But maybe, just maybe, the NIHL club can revolutionise its position in the second tier by starting off next season with Ben O'Connor and Jason Hewitt in their ranks.

O'Connor was one of Great Britain's most consistent performers in the recent World Championships, after parting company with Steelers.

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Jason Hewitt. Pic Podium Prints.

You would expect Cardiff Devils and Nottingham Panthers might offer him a home in the EIHL.

Cardiff, because they would fit in with O'Connor's prime aim of winning a title.

And Nottingham because they too could be in with a shout...and they are considerably closer to the player's home in Sheffield.

But the complications are many and varied.

O'Connor has a growing family in South Yorkshire and business interests in the financial sector.

He has previously spoken of the "sacrifices" EIHL players have to make, training or playing on most days.

Which is where Steeldogs could fit in.

Co-owner Ali Cree believes O'Connor has not "shut the door" on the Dogs.

"I speak to him almost every day, I'd say there is about a 50 percent chance of him coming to us," said Cree.

"He is an Elite League player and should definitely play there.

"But after Covid, maybe a few guys will be thinking, with family life, there is more to life than full-time hockey.

"We'd love him to come back, he was a great ambassador when he was with us and helped out the young guys."

So what can the iceSheffield club offer him?

"Ben is clever enough to understand the system and finances of our club and we would do what we can to be able to bring him and keep him at the club and I think a long term deal would probably be something he'd look for" said Cree.

"I don't think he is ready to step down yet - but if a deal is not on the cards for any of the other (EIHL) clubs, then I definitely think we would be an option.

"He has got the appetite to prove himself and win something. He definitely knows he has got mileage left."

On Hewitt, Cree said there was an embargo on approaching Hull Stingrays players (Hewitt has been their player coach) until it is known exactly what is happening with their rink, which needs revamping.

Cree would love to see Hewitt at his club, in combination with O'Connor.

"There's a lot of rivalry there, (with NIHL opponents Hull) he is a great guy off the ice, on the ice he is the biggest pain in the a***.

"But having him on your team is such an asset. Anybody would be lucky to have him."

Cree said Hewitt would be of interest to Leeds Knights as well, if he became available.

"One hundred per cent, we'd like both" said Cree adding it would be a game-changer for the club, said the co-owner.

Hewitt's points alone were worthy of an import, he said.

Dogs' coach Greg Wood would also be ecstatic to see both skaters at iceSheffield, O'Connor has been a lifelong friend of his.

He said there was "no better British defenceman at the top level than Ben and if we could support him even if it is just for the start of the season, we would try and make it happen."

Hewitt settled in well with Dogs during matches during the lockdown, and became "an integral part" of the line up.

"They would both improve our club and that would bring quite a buzz" said Wood.