David Simms’ Sheffield Steelers ice hockey column: Where could Belfast captain Blair Riley be going?

The summer is here, hockey is still being played and the Steelers new boss is arriving in town next week.

Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 11:04 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 11:11 am
Belfast Giants' Blair Riley with Sheffield Steelers' John Armstrongat the SSE Arena, Belfast in 2017

The hockey still being played is of course the Pool A world championships, many of our troops are out there representing queen and country, Messrs, Dowd, O’Connor, Phillips (Davey), Whistle and of course the captain Jonathan Phillips.

The league’s Governing body (IHUK) dropped the ball last weekend didn’t they with the exhibition game against KHL side Torpedo. About 3,000 watched the game against Team GB.

Steelers weren’t involved with the organisation of the event though had requested that the game be a £5 all ticket game, like those we have so successfully organised throughout the season.

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Rather than being the damp squid it turned into, the game would have been an 8,000 – 9,000 sold out party sending the boys off to the World’s with the biggest crowd cheering them on.

As a sport we need fans to also be GB as well as our individual club supporters, this would have been a simple and brilliant way to 1) raise awareness, 2) raise more funds and 3) have a ‘feel good’ feeling about the team before it heads off.

Aaron Fox arrives in Sheffield next week, he and his family arrive in town as work continues on the rebuilding process. Whilst no other signings have been made since the announcements a couple of weeks ago, negotiations continue.

Fox’s message when was confirmed was “Patience” and that is something we must give him. Time to find the right guys, if we don’t make another signing until July then so be it. No panic, this is a new man with his own style and we must let him get on with it as he sees fit.

When I speak with Aaron he seems always calm and in control.

This isn’t his first rodeo, he has done this team building thing a fair few times before. It’s the reason he is in the job, our chosen man. I’m finding this summer exciting already.

Interesting news out of Belfast this week that Blair Riley, their captain and leader, wasn’t returning. He signed a two-year deal last summer after the Steelers and Giants were involved in a race to capture the big winger. One can only assume that there was a get out notice in the contract and Riley will move on. All the good suggestions seem to be pointing to Riley staying in this league – but where?

If you thought we were rebuilding, then it’s nothing to what is happening in that little village 40 miles south of here. They are once again trying to re-invent themselves.

Last week they appointed the very much well liked Gui Doucet as Director of Hockey. A new position, it really is the closest thing to a Hockey GM (rather than a club GM). Firstly Doucet is a top bloke, I can’t remember hearing a bad word about the chap.

Doucet is hockey intelligent, well educated but he is entering a hockey war pit of negotiations and battles. With zero experience landing a job with a club the size of you know who is a tough task.

Funny enough I wish him well (to a certain extent) as I say he is a decent old boy but is he about to have his eyes opened.

There are many names for the position that Doucet has taken on, his job is to really have a plan, have a direction of where his team is going not over one year but over a period of 4, 5 or 10. It’s an interesting move and one all clubs will keep an eye on.

One of the players Doucet (and every club) will have a look at is Ben Lake of the Coventry Parish. The British passport holder is away with GB and his past season has raised eyebrows around the league. His representatives have been more than approachable in recent months in welcoming interest.

Whilst Lake is a home town boy and enjoys Coventry I wouldn’t rule out him being one of a few big summer moves alongside Blair Riley.

Steelers have also announced the dates of their three home exhibition games in August. It’s a shorter pre-season that last year with three outstanding fixtures against quality opponents.

The new season starts on the weekend of the 17th and 18th August against HK Poprad at ICE Sheffield before we move back into the Arena the following Saturday (24th) to take on MAC Budapest.