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Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 10:50 am

John Armstrong has revealed he had to hit the gym extra hard after 'letting himself go' in the Summer lockdown.

He had to ditch a stone and a half off his frame to be ready for the EIHL season.

The difference between a remarkably slimmed-down Brandon Whistle now - and the same player Steelers had in the 2018-19 season is also plain for all to see.

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Armstrong, the 33-year-old Canadian centreman, is now in his fifth term with Sheffield, although he has not played since the early months of 2020, because of the pandemic.

"I have to admit I let myself go for a little bit, it was tough to stay motivated during Covid and everything" the player admitted.

"But once I agreed to sign the contract and come back I was fired up to get back to the gym, lost a bunch of weight and I feel good.

"I am probably down about ten kilos from a couple of months ago."

Getting back into playing condition is never easy.

"I have to admit I am pretty sore. We had a bunch of 'two-a-days" (training sessions) and then ramped right into it. It was really hard and really fast" he said.

"We have a really fast team so it is tough to keep up with everybody!

"Groins and hips are sore, normal kind of training camp stuff and by the time the season gets going we will be ready."

John Armstrong joins the celebration throng on Sunday. Photo: Dean Woolley.

Armstrong says although there were players missing from both pre-season games against Nottingham Panthers, he had seen enough to know Steelers will have a "very skilled team."

He said it was important to start off the club's Challenge Cup defence well at Manchester Storm on Saturday.

Winning the final in the 2019-2020 season was: "great, that is one of my favourite memories, it was a big win, great to do it against Cardiff (Devils) so we will be going for every trophy this year."

Playing this Sunday at home against Cardiff represented a "tough start, they have been going for well over a month" he added.

Brandon Whistle: slimmed down. Photo: Dean Woolley.

But the two games against Nottingham had been a "bit of a war" so he felt the team was well prepared.

Armstrong is looking forward to playing in front of new netminder Barry Brust, who should make his debut this weekend.

"I think I played against him years ago, I have known about him for a long time, he has had a great career, been in the KHL for a long time, a very well-respected goalie and we can't wait to have him."

Armstrong described Brust as: "very skilled, very technical. He's like the goalie coach's dream, he just knows what he is doing, is really experienced and a big guy."

Steelers v Notts. Photo: Dean Woolley