Year 25 of the Steelers and I think as we approach the start of the season one thing is unquestionable – this Steelers side will be the best prepared for the start of a new year.
Professionalism in our sport throughout the league has improved ten fold over recent years. I think the few who questioned Paul Thompson’s appointment just over 12 months ago can see one of the main reasons Tony Smith hired the 47-year-old. Thompson bought his diligence, attention to detail and professionalism to the Steelers from the second he arrived.
Follow the Steelers on social media, twitter Facebook or Instagram and you will have seen daily photos and messages from the players both over here and back in Canada, working out, in training, preparing. For heavens sake Messrs Fitzgerald and Mosienko stayed over in the summer to ensure they were best prepared for the new year.
Thompson’s best signing might be a guy who will never score a goal or make an assist. The league’s first full time fitness and conditioning coach Danny Mawer. It is Mawer who has worked all summer making sure guys in Sheffield, Hull, Peterborough and Canada will be in the shape of their lives come the start of training camp on August 8 – but folks there lies the problem, as far as the Steelers have progressed, as far as they have moved forward the biggest club in the UK, the best prepared team in the EIHL starts their full time training camp on August 8.
They will have five, maybe six on ice training sessions plus two exhibition games before they play a HV71 side that has been together for the last two months. We’ve come along way but we still some way to go.
A lot is down to money, add 33% to the salary bill, add another two months housing costs and I’m sure the whole team would come in another eight weeks early – I think that’s too early by the way, but that is the European way.
So ahead of the CHL how does Paul Thompson, with such a short window together with the players on the ice, ensure his Steelers side compete against two of Europe’s finest.Firstly Thompson has brought back a great core of last years championship side. An experienced group of diligent players who know what Thompson will demand.
Secondly his new recruits are also no group of rookies. Experienced players both in North America and Europe. Thompson will be as prepared as you can get. He will be detailed in his demands. more thorough in his attention to detail. His second in command Jerry Andersson is also a canny old fox. Two pairs of eyes and a strong assistant, a trusted soul who will be able to take command of different areas of detail. Thompson is the boss but this Steelers coaching staff will be more of a team effort.
In such a short spell their off-ice fitness will have to be transferred to on-ice fitness – but Thompson knows he can’t just hammer his side physically. Systems have to be learnt. The summer rust must be removed.
Thompson has insisted the team fly to Sweden a little earlier so he can have more ice time ahead of the first game against HV71 – not one on ice session but two – he is trying to cram in as much as he can, a quart into a pint pot.
The one thing we do know is that once the CHL is over the Steelers will be more than ready for the start of the Elite League – are you excited yet? I can’t wait. Less than four weeks until the two exhibition games against Aalborg Pirates of the Danish Elite League at ice Sheffield on August 13 and 14– see you there.