Guildford Flames v Sheffield Steelers: Win overshadowed by Anthony DeLuca drugs controversy

Another hectic hockey weekend for Sheffield Steelers - but the biggest debate amongst many fans surrounded a player who was nowhere near the ice.

By Bob Westerdale
Sunday, 28th November 2021, 8:48 pm
Sheffield Steelers Anthony DeLuca has been suspended

Anthony DeLuca, one of the most popular imports at the top of the league club, was suspended for failing a drugs test.

Specifics are thin on the ground yet speculation has spread like wildfire.

But one detail that is clear is that coach Aaron Fox must now source TWO new players.

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Sheffield Steelers' Brandon Whistle and an official come a cropper at Guildford

One to replace the injured Brendan Connolly - and one for DeLuca, who may be playing his hockey back in north America over the next few months.

Steelers are saying nothing other than he's failed an anti-doping test.

The 26-year-old has confirmed The Star's initial story that "that this is not a performance-enhancing issue."

Where the UK Anti-Doping agency's findings will lead to next, is anybody's guess.

Sheffield Steelers' Barry Brust pulls off a save at Guildford

But Steelers are planning for life without him.

Fans' social media comments have varied from cringing hostility to a more toned-down concern for the player.

Inevitably, the devil will be in the detail.

If he did take drugs, how much and when?

Goalmouth action at Guildford Flames v Sheffield Steelers

Imagine this hypothetical scenario.

If an import smoked cannabis during the Summer at home in, say, Canada, it would have been totally legal. For three years, it's been freely available there for both recreational/medicinal purposes.

Traces can remain in the body for months.

So, purely for argument's sake, if this applies to DeLuca, in many people's eyes that would not make him such an arch-villain, after all.

It would just make him a pro athlete who should have known better.

If a player has been taking marijuana in the UK, during the season, well that'd be a different matter.

But conjecture apart, Sheffield must move on.

On Sunday the under-strength side packed their troubles in their kit bag and travelled to Guildford.

There they took the chance to go back to the top of the league, winning 3-1.

Flames, beaten 3-0 at Fife the night before, struggled to contain the Robert Dowd-John Armstrong-Martin Latal line.

It was Dowd who stuck the puck past Kevin Lindskoug at 3:23, his first strike since returning from injury.

The fit-again winger was denied with another effort before finding Latal to backhand home for 2-0 at 6:33.

Man of the match Barry Brust was doing his bit at the opposite end, the goaltender defying a penalty shot against him.

John Armstrong notched his first goal in 14 games at 48:25 although Flames fought back 29 seconds later; Jordan Cownie ending Brust's shut out hopes.

*On Saturday, Steelers lost 4-5 at home to Nottingham Panthers in a dead rubber Cup match. (hyperlink)

Plus points were Dowd, Curtis Warburton and Alex Graham's contributions. But coach Aaron Fox was disturbed by the loss of stick battles and a lack of "defensive engagement."