SHeffield Steelers: Vojtech Polak's reflections on trophyless season

After 20 seasons playing at a high level - including a five-game experience in the NHL - Vojtech Polák has seen it all.

Friday, 29th April 2022, 1:32 pm

Or at least he thought he had.

His 41 appearances in the jersey of Sheffield Steelers this season came amid a crop of injuries and absences of key personnel that he'd never witnessed before.

Polák was brought in when Brendan Connolly was injured in the Continental Cup in Aalborg in November.

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It was a season-ender for Connolly and Anthony DeLuca and Daine Todd were later to follow him out of the roster.

There were notable absences in the season, too, for Marco Vallerand, Tanner Eberle, John Armstrong, Adrian Saxrud-Danielsen and Keeton Ellerby.

Fans of other EIHL clubs think Steelers are making too much of their injury situation that blighted season 2020-21.

After all, their teams, too, had their own issues.

Vojtech Polak has been reflecting on a season that promised so much but failed to bring success

But within the South Yorkshire club, you cannot speak to anybody about the campaign without the loss of Todd and Connolly, in particular, being raised.

Polák arrived on the Sheffield scene after parting company with Romanian side Csikszereda in December.

He scored on his debut at Cardiff Devils and his five goals and seven assists in his first nine games suggested he needed little settling in time.

A broken finger prematurely put paid to his season and he wasn't able to take part in the play off quarter-finals with Dundee Stars.

Referring to the injuries, he said: "I don't know how to explain it, I have never experienced that many guys get hurt, through the season.

"I don't know if it is bad luck, I don't know how to explain it but it definitely did not help."

Certainly, owner Tony Smith sees player absences as a huge influence on the fortunes of the club.

He said: "(Travis) Oleksuk was a massive top-line centre signing, DeLuca was a game-changer, Todd one of the best 'D' in the league and Connolly needs no talking about" he said.

Polák and his club-mates will now have to stomach the fact that this weekend's play off finals are going on in Nottingham without them.

And then they will look to the future.

While his finger will mend, the one-time Dallas Stars draftee will turn 37 in June and cannot answer the question of where he will play his hockey next season.

"I have got no idea," he said.

"I like it here (Sheffield.) Obviously, we had some great runs, there are great fans, but we will see what happens I can't really say, it is hockey - it is not an easy question."

Ironically, coach Aaron Fox had been keen on stocking up on quality centres at the start of the season.

But Oleksuk decided to leave after eight games, Connolly was hurt and with Justin Hodgman retiring, Fox will have the same challenge in the upcoming close season.