I’ve know Paul Thompson for about 30 years; firstly as a player in Solihull, then in Sheffield. Paul then coached and I have seen him grow from the Solihull second team into a championship coach, a national team coach and, through his experiences in Sweden and Denmark, an international coach.
I’ve seen Paul on cloud nine, happy and excited, and I’ve seen him almost on his knees fighting for his life. When he coached Coventry, Troja, Aalborg, and now with Sheffield, we have spoken daily. He tells me about who he is trying to sign, wants to sign and then signed.
Over the years he has landed some pretty impressive players; including NHL stars Wade Belak and Matt Belresky. I remember he being really excited the day he called to say he had landed Sylvain Cloutier. An American league captain, a warrior and a leader. Calder, Carlson, Lehman, Martin... the list rolls on and on.
Last year with the Steelers, landing Jace Coyle was a big signing for him. This year bringing home Moose (Ervins Mustukovs) is another great catch.
I can confirm though that I have never known him as excited about a player signing in my life as he is over young Liam Kirk. The Steelers’ decision to sign both Kirk and Cole Shudra [who, by the way, helped the Sheffield Scimitars lift the national U20s championship last weekend - great job boys] was initiated by Paul.
He wanted youth he could mould. NHLers, AHL captains... and yet Paul is more excited over a 16-year-old from around the corner.
Kirk is all I hear Paul go on about. On one hand he doesn’t want to rush his progress but on the other, when we discuss rosters, he says: “That kid will break into the team by the new year, you know.
“He does things I haven’t seen other lads do.”
Kirk and Shudra skated a lot with the Steelers last year and Paul knows that they have a lot to do before they are regulars in the team. Physically they need to grow, and mentally they need to learn about the game. Cole Shudra scored the overtime game winner in the Under 20s national final; before that, Kirk had scored all three of the Scimitars’ goals. These boys are at the top of the junior tree. Now it’s time to come join the pros.
Last weekend, I was at Ben O’Connor’s wedding. There was Mark Thomas (retired), Phil Hill (plays for Telford, as good as retired) and Jason Hewitt (retired).
Who replaces these guys, not only as players but as the guardians of the Steelers? Remember it’s the Brits then run the show as the important come and go. Jonathan Phillips has time left and Messrs Dowd, O’Connor and Ferrara will do a terrific job in the next few years. By then, Kirk and Shudra will have joined them and the future will be bright, the future will be the Orange of the Steelers.
If Paul Thompson is excited about these lads, then we should be. If he thinks they can go all the way then we have a hell of a future. I can’t wait for the two lads to make their debuts for the Steelers at iceSheffield on August 13 and 14 against Danish side Aalborg Pirates in the CHL warm up games.