When Sheffield Steelers open their season tomorrow, it will be the first time since 2005 that Rod Sarich won’t be protecting their blue line.
The release of one of the club’s most sophisticated, elegant all-rounders has stung the player’s pride.
Sarich - who has opted against joining any other club, so far - may cut a forlorn figure as Steelers’ 2013-4 campaign swings underway at Coventry Blaze.
Sarich was never part of the plans of incoming coach Doug Christiansen. “It doesn’t feels great when someone tells you they don’t want you any more” said the GB/Canadian dual national.
“It wasn’t what I’d hoped for, I thought I had a few more seasons to offer. I didn’t have chance to thank the fans for all those years, it just feels as if it’s all been whisked away. But the club has new coaches and new ideas. That is their prerogative.”
Sarich, 32, accepts that injuries - including one that robbed him of 15% of a kidney - affected his marketability. “I haven’t had the best couple of years and the team hasn’t done terribly well.
“But I’m established in Sheffield and had they offered me a lesser deal I’d have considered it.”
Asked if he felt the coaches had got it wrong, he replied: “I’d like to think they did. I realise I am not 25 but I still have a bit to offer, was a Great Britain player, and can adapt to a lot of roles. After eight years I was still committed” said the Florida Panthers draft pick.
“But hockey is a business.”
Sarich believes tomorrow’s opponents, Coventry Blaze, looked at his availability. But his life is busy enough - he has a full time job and is studying at University - without having to factor in extra travel. Sarich was also courted by EPL side Sheffield Steeldogs.
But he said: “I am competitive and wanted to play as high a level as I could.” Steelers owner Tony Smith last night described Sarich as “the ultimate professional.”
*Don’t miss a full page Steelers graphic by artist Simon Waller in today’s @sheffieldstar newspaper.