Sheffield Steelers dealt blow as Marco Vallerand leaves for 'higher league'

Marco Vallerand has quit Sheffield Steelers for a "higher league" in European hockey.

Monday, 30th May 2022, 6:00 am

The explosive forward has never sought to hide the main factor behind his decision-making over which club he plays for - he wants to win trophies.

And now he is thought to have pursued that objective by signing in the International Central European Hockey League, (formerly EBEL) possibly for HK Olimpija Ljubljana.

Vallerand played for the Slovenians during the Covid lockdown season and liked what he saw.

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Key player Marco Vallerand has left Sheffield Steelers. Pic Dean Woolley

The club wants to close the gap between the leaders in their division, Red Bull Salzburg.

Ljubljana have continued to monitor his performances since he returned to the EIHL in what was an injury-hit campaign.

He clearly enjoys the general European flavour; he has played in Italy, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland before.

While Vallerand enjoyed his 107 games for Steelers over two seasons, he had been cryptic about his future, recently, dodging questions from The Star (((((hyperlink))))))

Marco Vallerand and the Sheffield Steelers bench

The 33-year-old Canadian eventually accepted a European offer and said: "It’s been a hell of last two weeks.

"It’s hard to take some decisions like that. When you have a place you can call home and on the other hand a good opportunity to move and make better for yourself for the goals I want to achieve in my career...

"I’m not getting younger and at my age, it’s probably one of the last opportunities to reach these objectives.

"With that said I think me and the Steelers left on a very good note. So hopefully it’s not a goodbye but a see you later.

Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox

"I enjoyed to the fullest my two seasons at Steelers I made so many friends inside and outside of hockey.

"I want to thank all the staff, I can’t name everyone also Tony, (Smith) Foxy, (Aaron Fox) Carter (Beston-Will,) Mike Mawer and obviously the fans who welcomed me since day one."

Coach Fox said: "Anytime you lose a guy like Vally you know it will be hard to replace a player like that.

"He’s a premium player in our league and you know what you're going to get nightly from him.

Departing Marco Vallerand celebrates in Belfast.

"He was also a great character guy for our room. We had multiple discussions about a deal to bring him back but this for him was more about the opportunity to give a higher league one more opportunity.

"He called me and let me know his decision and expressed how much he enjoyed his time in Sheffield and discussed a potential return at some point down the line.

"I told him that the door is always open for him.

"From a recruiting perspective, it’s also always good to be able to show that guys can come here play well and still get those opportunities in other top leagues as well".

Vallerand scored 63 goals and 133 points for the South Yorkshire side.

His leaving will be a major blow for thousands of fans - in terms of popularity Vallerand was probably on a par with Robert Dowd.

But it is his hunger to be on the winning side - one mirrored by Dowd - that will be hard to replace.

Sheffield will roll with the blow, though, and announce a signing for their 2022-23 roster on Wednesday.