There were few players more relieved in the Steelers line-up than Jason Hewitt when Zack Fitzgerald was added to the squad in Paul Thompson’s Summer spending spree.
Hewitt is often Sheffield’s most aggressive player - a style which infuriates opposition and often ends up in a few bumps and bruises for the forward.
But next season’s side will feature a heavyweight enforcer in the form of former Vancouver Canucks skater Fitzgerald, which may mean fewer teams are prepared to take liberties against the champions.
“Our team should be a bit tougher next season” said ‘Bulldog’ Hewitt, who has a testimonial programme throughout the campaign. “Maybe that’s an area that was lacking last year; the team didn’t have the grit it’s had in previous years. We started with Pascal Morency as our toughness, but he got injured. Maybe we didn’t need it as we didn’t get bullied. But next year if anybody does take liberties they will see how mean Fitzgerald can be” said Hewitt, 31.
“He plays hard and doesn’t back down to anyone.”
Hewitt, at 5ft 10ins, doesn’t regarded himself as a tough guy, despite the scrapes he’s been in. “I seem to attract trouble. I’ve always liked to play in people’s faces and stand up for team-mates. But as far as the big guys are concerned, Zack can take care of them.”
The American was disliked by Sheffield fans last year after pummelling Danny Bois. Hewitt said: “It’s hard to tell how it developed, but it was unfortunate for Boisy as Zack was obviously ready to go at that point.” Fitzgerald served 344 penalty minutes at Braehead Clan - compared with Cullen Eddy who was Steelers’ top penalty-taker with 171 minutes.
Meanwhile, Hewitt says Steelers’ D has been bolstered with skill, as well as physicality. “Recruiting guys who played last year in Denmark (Jace Coyle) and Sweden (Russ Moyer) should see us really skilled at the back.”