Martin Latal manages to focus on Sheffield Steelers despite Ukraine trauma

Martin Latal has suffered illness and heart-break over the last couple of weeks, but his on-ice contribution to Sheffield Steelers' cause has never dipped.

Thursday, 17th March 2022, 10:35 am

The Czech speed-merchant, whose wife's family have been victims of the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis, continues to devote his focus and mental strength to the club whenever he pulls on the jersey.

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Asked how he manages to clear his mind of the problems endured by his in-laws following the Russian invasion, the player who turned 34 today, replied: "In the last few games it has been tough.

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"When I won man of the match in a (recent) home game, I was super-excited and happy about the win but somewhere in the head, there is something you cannot get rid of it.

"It is not nice. Every time you open a newspaper you read awful things happening; it is heartbreaking."

Despite this ongoing trauma, Latal is third top scorer with 22+28 for 50 points in 49 league and Cup games.

That point a game average far exceeds the expectations the club had before signing him in the summer.

Matin Latal in action.

"My hockey was never about points, this is a big satisfaction for me after a few years of struggling" said Latal.

"I am just happy the team is doing pretty well and I am enjoying my time here, I hope to finish the season by lifting the cup."

Last Saturday's win at Belfast Giants' rink was certainly a morale booster for Latal and his team mates.

"It is tough when you have been winning, winning, winning, and a break to that comes along towards the end of the season, but in that last game we showed some character big time.

Matin Latal in action.

"Everybody dialed in the game and we stepped out of the comfort zone, so I am very proud of the guys in the dressing room.

"We have to have balls, there are just 12 (League) games left.

"The season has been tough, many times we didn't have enough guys on the bench, I think we should be warriors for the last 12 games, it's not a long time we should just step up and keep being warriors."

Latal knows he will have team-mates feeling the same.

Belfast Giants celebrate their victory in the final.

And he won't ever forget how they showed concern for him and his wife, over the war in Ukraine.

"The support from team-mates and the organisation, from fans and players from other teams and referees; it feels nice. They care.

"The dressing room is very supportive - all of them, they have been super nice."

The wafer-thin difference between the three teams at the top end of the EIHL has certainly been underlined in the last few days.

Sheffield lost and then won the following night at top-place Belfast last weekend, and then on Wednesday, in the Challenge Cup Final, Belfast beat Cardiff Devils 4:18 minutes in overtime in front of 7,319 spectators.

Giants' player Jordan Boucher declared it: "One down, two to go."