Martin Latal coming back to Sheffield Steelers and he may not be alone

Martin Latal today brought a smile back to Steelers' fans' faces - he is returning to Sheffield for a second year and might be bringing two Czech mates with him.

Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 8:30 am

The hugely-popular Latal was one of the first players that coach Aaron Fox tried to re-sign at the end of last season.

The deal was done quickly and comes in the week that Marco Vallerand upset many fans by leaving the Arena club.

The Star understands there may be two other Czech nationals joining Latal in South Yorkshire.

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The very popular Martin latal is coming back to Sheffield Steelers for next season. Picture: Dean Woolley

The coaching team has been looking into the recent playing history of both Czechs, although no deal has been done yet.

"I’m extremely happy we are able to get Lats back for another year," said Fox.

"He’s a player with next-level speed that can change a game in a hurry.

"He impacts the game on both ends of the ice and plays in all our key situations.

Curtis Warburton has joined NIHL outfit Hull Seahawks

"He brings a ton of character to our dressing room and I believe after getting to know the league he can build off last year's numbers. It’s great to have him back."

Last year's numbers were excellent.

He was Steelers' third top points scorer, 27+33 (60pts) in 63 games and a league plus-minus of +31, the best at the club, and in the top six of the EIHL.

It's a busy period of rebuilding for teams in both the EIHL and the NIHL.

Ben O'Connor, who iced 380 games for Steelers, is heavily linked with Guildford Flames, Nottingham Panthers' Josh Tetlow has gone to RoKi in Finland and team-mate Ollie Betteridge could move overseas too.

Back-up netminder on the move

Steelers' back-up netminder Curtis Warbuton, 20, has made an interesting switch too.

He has joined NIHL outfit Hull Seahawks, but on a two-deal with Sheffield.

He will share that groundbreaking arrangement with Scottish 'keeper Jordan McLaughlin, also now at Hull.

Hull GM Matty Davies said: "Chris has played NIHL and EIHL. He is young, still developing as a player but his talent is showing through already.

He is not just a great prospect but is a netminder I know can step into the NIHL with no difficulty and will perform.

"He already has game-experience under his belt so I see him stepping up this year to a whole new level."

He said Warburton and McLaughlin were "looking to move permanently to the Elite League and have the capability to do so but for gametime, they are keen to join an NIHL side where they will get more ice time in a competitive environment."

Both netminders have agreed the two-way plan to train and play for Sheffield.

First shout for Steelers

Steelers will have first call on them, but with Sheffield hiring two import tenders, both Brits will be available for Hull unless needed by Steelers.

"If a player is required to start a game with Sheffield, the Steelers will have the choice of either," explained Davies.

"If the player is required to back up for Sheffield, Hull will have the choice which player goes.

"We worked hard on the detail of the two-way.

"This works very well for us. Both lads will receive training support from Steelers and this will accelerate their development.

"Gametime with us can only sharpen their skills.

"I anticipate that most of the time we will have both netminders to call upon but we will always have one or the other on match nights so fans should not be concerned.

"Remember that Hull was an important junction in (GB goalie) Ben Bowns' career path."

Fox thinks highly of Warburton and has noted his improvement with Bees IHC in Bracknell, last term.

"It’s very important for goalies to get as many games as possible to develop," the Sheffield boss said.

"There were times last year that we needed Curtis to back up, which took some starting opportunities away from him at the NIHL level.

"With this deal that should never be an issue moving forward.

"We also get a proven quality EIHL goalie in Jordan and are now able to see his game on the daily. He has shown the ability to win hockey games at the EIHL level (with Glasgow Clan) which is a huge positive when your looking at solidifying the goalie position.

"We will get first call on both goalies if we plan on using one of them to start and Hull will get first call if we plan on using one of them to backup. It should be a deal that really works well for all involved."