How do you define the word ‘leader’? What do you expect from your leader, especially in a team sport sense? Do you want your main man to be a cheerleader or do you want your leader to be your scorer, getting those big important goals? Or making those big important saves?
There are two words I would use for leader with a Sheffield Steelers’ perspective: Mathieu Roy.
Let me give you an example. To win the EIHL this season the odds are that you will have to finish one point above the Belfast Giants, last years champions. To do that the Steelers will have to win their series of eight games against the Giants, four in Sheffield and four in Belfast. To date the Steelers have two wins from the two games played; both tight, full on, hard-hitting and aggressive affairs.
Last Saturday, against the Giants, Mathieu Roy scored the all important opening goal of the night. Over 5,500 people stood and cheered their hero. It was Roy’s 15th goal of the season, at that moment the most of any player in the entire league.
Three minutes later Roy was out on the ice again, this time defending. Roy is a one-third part of the Steelers’ all-conquering offensive powerhouse first line, alongside the silky, sexy-skilled Colton Fretter and the dazzling hot-shot Mike Forney - yet this was the line doing their job at the other end of the ice. And none more so that Roy.
One shift summed Roy’s effort more than any other and it wasn’t the one where he scored - it was the one when he defended. GB International Davey Phillips wound up his slap shot, and you and I would have got out of the way. But Mathieu Roy came out to challenge and then crouched to block the shot.
The rebound fell at Phillips’ feet once more and who was there to block the second shot? Mathieu Roy.
The importance of blocking shots can’t be underestimated on many levels - including showing your teammates that you are there for them, prepared to do what ever is needed to win.
Steelers goalie Frank Doyle has an incredible saves percentage of 91.9 per cent - meaning that if you fire 100 pucks at him, eight will get past him. So for every shot you block you are helping your side, limiting the opposition shots on goal, limiting their scoring chances. You block 10 shots in a game, you are saving your team a minimum of a goal a game, and those one goal games are the ones that win championships. That’s why it’s no coincidence that players like Mathiue Roy win championships.
We have seen, since he arrived in August, that he is a top player, top bloke, team guy. We have seen in his performances why he played so long at one club (Florida Everblades) and captained them for so long and won championships with them. I think for me that one shift epitomised that, in Mathieu Roy, we are seeing a real player, a proper player here in Sheffield. We are seeing a man who knows what it takes to win a game, a series and of course a championship.
In his 14 league games Mathieu has scored 11 goals and 26 points, just one point below Fife’s Chris Augar - who has played four games more at the top of the players stats chart. Funny that, on a weekend that we saw the Steelers beat the top two teams in the league, we saw Frank Doyle’s heroics once more against the Giants on Saturday, and Tyler Mosienko’s brilliance against the Clan on Sunday, I left the Motorpoint Arena thinking: “what a shift that was by Mathieu Roy”.
I don’t know if the same 5,500 cheered Roy off the ice after that shift as they did after his goalscoring one minute earlier, but they should have. Roy’s goal was outstanding, important, vital in so many ways but his actions whilst defending his goal were equally as important.
Roy’s effort made the team better, made the team stand taller. Roy was sending a message that if the club’s number one goalscorer could defend, commit, block shots and put his head on the line than so could they. So should they. That’s true leadership.