Sheffield Steelers: Kevin Schulze says team may have 'upgraded' since mini-series
Kevin Schulze had a brief glimpse of Sheffield Steelers and its organisation during the mini-series, earlier this year.
It was a team bristling with talent, with the likes of Jérémy Beaudry and Josef Hrabal in defence and Josef Mikysk, Sondre Olden and Josh Waller in attack.
Schulze wore the shirt 15 times in that condensed series and saw enough to commit for the full 2021-22 campaign.
So how does the 28-year-old American compare the mini-tournament version with the one he now plays for?
"I wouldn't say it was too much different," he said.
"The calibre is as good if not better as the mini-series."
Schulze is just grateful that the fans are back in their seats to get behind the squad as they attempt to hold on to the top spot in the EIHL table.
Asked how important it was to him to win the League title in the UK, he answered: "That is in the number one goal here, that is why I came, that is why everybody else is here and I think we have got the team to do it."
The defenceman's last team was Nürnberg Ice Tigers in the German DEL.
"I really liked it there," he said. "It was a good town, a very good league and I enjoyed my time there a lot."
Before that, he was part of the high-achieving Leksands IF team in Sweden.
Leksands won promotion when he was in their ranks and that was one of his favourite achievements in his career.
"I didn't really know what it was like coming over, it was my first year in Europe, and to move up from the second league to the top league and just the atmosphere and what that meant to the team - it was definitely a big point in my career."
Schulze, who is plus-two in the plus minutes stakes, has been one of the top Sheffield five players receiving the most time on ice season the season started.
He has averaged 19:41 minutes per game.
Slightly ahead of him are: Marco Vallerand (19:44) Daine Todd (20:06) Evan Mosey (20:16) and Brendan Connolly (20:35.)
The highest ice time for a Brit falls to Robert Dowd (18:44) who was initially recorded as scoring a hat-trick at Guildford Flames last Sunday, only for the administrators to later award one of the strikes to Vallerand.
The top ice time player at Nottingham Panthers, who travel to Sheffield in the Challenge Cup on Saturday, is ex-Steeler Mark Matheson (22:52.)
Another former Sheffield defenceman, Ben O'Connor, is in the top five of logged minutes at Cardiff Devils (20:20) as is one-time Sheffielder Luke Ferrara at Coventry (21:07.)
The skater who sees more ice than anyone in the league is Fife Flyers' Swedish d-man Jonas Emmerdahl with 29:18.
Meanwhile, new Sheffield forward Justin Hodgman has been blown away by the level of preparation before Steeler games.
"To be honest, it’s been awesome, especially with some of the other new guys on the team not knowing the league so well," he said.
"We have extremely detailed video around every aspect of the game, and I think it’s been a huge part of our early success this season."