Sheffield Steelers snap up versatile Eric Meland
Sheffield Steelers have filled one of the remaining cavities left on their team sheet - by employing a wannabe dentist!
Eric Meland has joined the club on a one-year contract and, at 29, has several years left in his ice hockey career.
But his ultimate post-hockey aim is to become dental practitioner.
Steelers were certainly down in the mouth after last year's trophy-less season, but there is now only a couple of places to fill on their roster.
Coach Aaron Fox has been designing a team built on balance and versatility, amongst other qualities.
And getting their teeth into Meland is a kind of insurance policy for the team - he can play either up front or in defence.
It is likely the 6ft 1ins American will start off as a third line forward.
Meland is known to Fox from his season and a half in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga with Hungarian team Fehérvár AV19; Fox was in charge at rivals Medvescak Zagreb for some of that time.
The centre has won the Danish Cup and been a champion in the second Czech flight as he moved around the European circuit.
Steelers' fifth new forward - if he plays an offensive role - said: “I’m as excited as I have been in a long time.
"This summer I was looking at the landscape of options available and it looked like either a move back to Scandinavia or the UK.
“Once I spoke with Aaron and he explained what he was trying to achieve in Sheffield I gravitated towards a move to the Steelers.
"Aaron explained the pieces he had put in place and I liked the role he had for me.”
“I play a variety of positions and I like that,” Meland added.
“I’d like to think I cover every square inch of the ice in a game. I understand Aaron likes that versatility in my game and if that helps the team, I’m happy.
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“As a player I’d like to think I’m a good skater, that I see the ice well and that I can make a good pass.”
Meland has a degree in Engineering, but his eventual choice of profession seems a "molar opposite."
“My brother is a dentist and I think he has persuaded me that my future is in that field,” he said.
“I am committed to hockey for the next two or three seasons and hope they will be played in Sheffield and together we can win championships. That’s the reason I chose the Steelers and I can’t wait to arrive.”
Fox commented: “Eric’s played predominantly as a defenceman for the last few years but played forward when he was younger and did so again in the middle of last season. Eric played really well in that position.
"He is comfortable on the wing or as a centre where he played a top six role at the end of last year
“You also get that responsibility in his own end for a forward due to playing most his career as a D-man, which will also help with some match-ups.
"We can have some creativity with our line-up this way.
“We can use Eric in a top six D role when we have any injuries back there and a top nine role up front when fully healthy on the back end.
"He really liked the idea of being slotted in different spots and will bring some energy to our line-up wherever he plays.”
Meland turned professional in 2013 after studying at Princetown University in the NCAA, he moved overseas joining HC Banska in Slovakia. The following season saw a return to North America with spells in the East Coast League for Missouri and Wichita.
In 2015 he went to Lillehammer, Norway where he scored 13 goals and 36 assists in 45 games. The 2016-17 campaign was split between spells with Rungsted Seier Capital in Denmark before heading back to Slovakia with HK Nitra.
In 2017-18 with a move to German DEL 2 side EC Bad Nauheim before joining Fehervar at the end of that season.