STEELERS chief Ryan Finnerty hopes new NHL signing Tom Sestito will supercharge Sheffield back to the top of the table over the next few weeks.
The arrival of the 6ft 5ins winger is one of the biggest draws for Arena fans since the days when former NHL players were more common in the Steelers’ dressing room.
The difference, of course, is Sestito comes directly from the NHL, which is closed down by industrial action on the other side of the Atlantic.
While Sestito should have the pedigree to fit in straight away, his arrival comes, to a degree, in unfortunate circumstances.
Sestito replaces axed Canadian forward Cory Pecker, whom the club felt wasn’t fit or committed enough.
Pecker is now retiring from the sport after admitting to The Star: “I don’t think my heart was in it 1,000 per cent.”
Pecker, who played 300 games in the AHL, thinks he got the bullet to “deflect the pressure away” from the weekend of September 29 and 30, which which saw two home defeats.
After being fired, he said: “In my heart I knew it was time for me to end my career but I definitely didn’t agree with all the coach’s decisions. You can’t have favourites in pro hockey and I think in certain situations it showed he just played his ‘buddies’”
This appears to be a reference to Finnerty’s long term-friends Jonathan Phillips and Jason Hewitt - although, to be fair, they rarely play on the Power Play.
Asked to explain his criticism of Finnerty’s stewardship, Pecker cited this example: “Against Nottingham we had a power play in overtime for two minutes and I didn’t see the ice. I’m not trying to be arrogant and say I had to be out there but I’m supposed to produce offence.
“That’s what I was there for so I didn’t understand things like that. I also wasn’t a fan that he (Finnerty) yelled quite a bit at some guys but if his buddies made the same mistake he wouldn’t say anything...this is pro hockey not pee wee (kids level).
“As for everyone else, it was a pleasure to be a part of this group and I would only have good things to say about playing in this league and in Sheffield.”
Finnerty shrugged off the criticism.
He said: “The situation is cut and dried. Cory came in 20 lbs out of shape and couldn’t keep up with the play.
“It doesn’t matter where you have played or at what level if you cannot keep up with those you are playing with currently.
“Sheffield Steelers did not let him down, he let himself down by being in such horrendous shape.
“We do not pay guys to get in shape, they are contracted to come here fully fit - that’s why the British guys pay for personal trainers out of their own pockets in the summer.”