Sheffield Steelers vow to do more to help displaced family of star player’s wife

Martin Latal turned down lucrative offers from several ice hockey clubs across Europe to return to Sheffield - the city that stood behind his family at the onset of the Ukrainian crisis.

Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 1:04 pm

Fans and the Steelers' club collected funds for relatives of Latal's Ukrainian wife, who had family displaced by the Russian invasion.

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It meant a lot to Latal, who was courted by teams after his one-year contract ran out with Steelers.

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He has now re-signed for a South Yorkshire organisation that will doubtless do more in the near future to help Mrs Latal's family, who are still sheltering in the player's home country of the Czech Republic.

Sheffield owner Tony Smith described Latal's commitment as a "huge signing for us.

"He's a player who could have gone to Europe but decided to stay in Sheffield.

"He loves the city, the people club, has been treated very well and is happy to stay at least one more year.

Martin Latal after scoring against Belfast Giants.

"He was one of the first signings Aaron (Fox, coach) went after, to make sure we'd got him tied down."

The owner continued: "With the right players on his line, Latal can destroy teams.

"There were two or three clubs in Europe who had made him good offers, but he turned down them down to stay."

Of the need to help Mrs Latal's family, he said: "The fans will want to help the cause again.

Steelers players cum GB supporters in Finland at th World championships: Martin Latal and Matias Sointu.

"This war isn't going away, one gesture doesn't cut it.

"There will be the need for ongoing help and support and hopefully we will organise something maybe in the summer or early season to do something very special for him.

"Sadly, I can't see his wife's family going back to Ukraine any time soon."

Meanwhile, the departing Marco Vallerand said it was a tough decision to leave Steelers.

Marco Vallerand, pic Dean Woolley

He said that the fact Sheffield had failed to win a trophy had hit him hard.

The grind of the league season - where routine games have play off overtones, made it difficult mentally and physically.

But at 33, playing in a better league with Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia) had presented an opportunity that had stood out.

Steelers had respected his position and left the door open - they would speak every summer, he said.

"I already know Ljubljana and the club, I felt great here last year" he said, referring to his time there in the Covid-hit season.

"I decided to come because I want to play in a higher ranking competition, in the ICE and CHL.

"I am looking forward to returning to Olympia and I think we can achieve good results" said Vallerand.