Former Sheffield Steeler Andre Malo on benefits of Italian spell for Marco Vallerand and Robert Dowd
Sheffield Steelers have two very significant assets effectively on loan at Italian team Eppan Pirates.
While Marco Vallerand and Robert Dowd are experienced hockey players, fans back in South Yorkshire will be intrigued to see how they progress during their spell in South Tyrol.
One major factor will be the fact they will now be coached by Patrice Lefebvre, who once played for Washington Capitals, in the NHL.
Before hitting the big time Lefebvre played in the relatively modest surrounds of Billingham, with the Bombers.
A team-mate and buddy there was Andre Malo, who had five seasons patrolling the blue line at Sheffield Arena.
Malo believes the two Steelers will flourish under Lefebvre.
"Patrice is a great man on and off the ice and a good team-oriented guy, so I would expect him to be a good leader, as he’s been around and done it all," he said.
"Dowdy will have known of him as his dad and uncle, Garry and Mark, played at the same time Patrice was in Billingham.
"Dowdy will be fine, I think it’s always good to play somewhere different, a different style or approach will only make him a better player," said Malo, who lives in Teesside.
"You can sometimes get complacent when you play at the same place for all your career so I’m sure he will be excited for a new adventure and take the experience with him when he comes back to Sheffield.
"Vallerand is French from Quebec so he should be fine with Patrice being a fellow Quebecer!"
Malo, who played with the likes of Scott Allison, Ed Courtenay, Rob Wilson, Ron Shudra, Ken Priestlay and Tony Hand at Sheffield, rates Lefebvre as "one of the most talented players I played with.
"He owns the record for most points in Quebec junior hockey league.
"He would be thriving in the NHL now if he was still playing, his small size kept him from playing at the time he played, but he still managed to make it to NHL after playing in Britain.
"He was strong, worked hard on and off the ice, he was quick and could turn on a dime," said the one time defenceman.
"He had a great shot and passing ability, and great will-to-win.
"He left Billingham and went to play in Las Vegas in the AHL and won the scoring title I believe.
"Then he was called up to Washington, not many have come to Britain and returned to play NHL."
Curiously, Billingham wasted a clear opportunity to keep hold of Lefebvre, Malo revealed.
"The funny thing is he was going to re-sign in Billingham with me and Richard Laplante as he enjoyed it so much.
"But they wouldn’t buy the sticks he wanted so he said: 'Ok, I’m off' and signed in Vegas instead!"
Steelers' GB defenceman Davey Phillips has found a job in Hungary, playing for Dunaújvárosi Acélbikák. He'll join a roster which includes ex NHLer Martin St Pierre, who left Sheffield early last season for Slovakia. Steelers coach Aaron Fox said: “I’m really happy that Davey found a club and is able to get back into things. It’s been a long six and a half months and this will be great for him. "He’s another guy that we will have conversations with about returning next year."