David Simms ice hockey column: our first steps towards total professionalism

Paul Thompson  with Tony Smith
Paul Thompson with Tony Smith
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Another piece of the puzzle added. Another week, another signing for Paul Thompson.

Levi Nelson’s addition to the clubs roster means that the Steelers are now just two players short of completing their line up for the new season. Now Thompson is looking for just one more forward and the all important position of starting goalie.

By all accounts Nelson will be a fan favourite. An agitator, a ‘cheeper,’ a player to get under the skin of the opposition. He brings some more size and presence to the clubs roster as well as being able to score at the highest level.

I spent the weekend with Paul Thompson in Newcastle at the IHUK meeting to discuss the new Under 20’s set up that the Steelers are so keen to be involved with.

My feeling is that Thommo isn’t in any rush what so ever to complete his roster. I think he knows the names of the players he wants and is prepared to wait for those individuals, whilst in the meantime keeping his eyes and ears open for additional targets just in case plan A doesn’t come to plan.

The one thing you can’t accuse Paul Thompson of is not having a plan B, in fact the one thing you can say about Paul is that in his head he has a plan B, C, D and E and does have all the bases covered.

The Steelers were paid a visit this week by the Champions Hockey League.

They were in town to ensure that the logistics of putting on two such big games were correct. Their diligence is incredible. The games will be broadcast around Europe.

The details such as timings, ensuring the clubs use the correct kit (provided by the league) that the right dasher boards are in place. That the visiting teams are treated correctly, fed right, have hotels close by and liaison with the Steelers and the Arena.

It’s proper, it’s professional and if anything it will help us run the Steelers better once the Champions League games are over.

Paul is bringing a huge amount of professionalism and accountability to the playing side of the club.

This Champions Hockey League is teaching the office part of the club a new and different way that we can benefit from.

We have always wanted the Steelers to lead the way, be the Manchester United of our sport in this country and be the most professional set-up. After three seasons of the Smith family bringing us the stability that was first required, we can kick on and hopefully improve our club off the ice, as well as on it, in many different ways.

When you see clubs like Frounda it’s not just the ability of their players that is different, it is the way they run their team, club and organisation. We look at them and we want to be like them. Like them in facilities, in preparation, in staff and then down the line in years to come in ability. Some may laugh but unless you aim to be the best then you will always fall well short of your targets.

The General Manager at Frolunda told me three years ago when I visited their arena that people laughed at them when they visited Real Madrid to look at their training facility and medical set up. You know what happened four years later.

Real Madrid returned the visit and then went home to Spain and changed their training facility to copy Frolunda.

For decades the Steelers had ideas but no foundations, no stability. Now the Smith family have bought that stability to the club we can look to build, look to improve and look to move forward. We have a great arena, a super training facility, buildings that can rival many in Europe. We have the Institute of Sport and other facilities that SIV operate. This is Paul’s job, or certainly part of it. The GM’s part is to bring all of this together and enable the Steelers players to benefit and to move forward. Hence the need for more body’s. More coaches, assistant coaches, fitness coaches etc.

This is year one of a new Steelers’ plan, a new way forward. Will it work? Who knows but we would die trying. Laugh now but save these words and let’s see where we are in 10 years time.