Great Britain’s world-class goaltender Ben Bowns has revealed he always feels extra motivation when he plays Sheffield - mainly because of a ‘negative’ article penned years ago by Steelers’ official Dave Simms.
The Cardiff Devils’ netminder - who grew up in Swinton, attending Fitzwilliam Primary and Juniors and the local Comp - needs little encouragement whenever he plays his ‘home’ club, especially when the game is in South Yorkshire, where his family turn out in force to watch him.
Bowns, who back-stopped GB to World Championship gold this Summer - told The Star: “On a personal level, it’s always a bit more meaningful when I play Sheffield. I grew up supporting them but never got the chance to train or play with them.
“The relationship between them and the Steeldogs during my years at the Dogs (2010-12) wasn’t exactly great and there were a few articles written about myself and my team over my last season in the EPL that I didn’t think were warranted.”
He recalled one piece in Powerplay magazine, crafted by Simms, which was shown to him just before a match.
“When I was playing in Hull (for Stingrays) the article stated: “The Bowns experiment has failed” and stated that I should be released by Hull. We were playing them that weekend and a fan ran up to show it me before the game.”
Bowns, 27, who started off his career with Sheffield Rapiers, was rankled but doesn’t hold a grudge against Simms.
“People are always going to have differing opinions on you. He’s written a few things since then that have been more than positive about me, to be fair.
“At that time I was 21 and playing for an EIHL team that had an EPL budget, I ended the season on a save percentage above 90% which was better than some of the imports at the time. Fast forward to now and I’m actually grateful that the article was written because the last thing I think before playing in Sheffield is: ‘I’ll show exactly what that ‘Bowns experiment’ is all about.’”
Bowns, who sat a degree (BSc Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences) at Doncaster College, has faced criticism himself for once being quoted saying he “hated Steelers.”
“Everyone likes to remind about that after a defeat to Sheffield” he said, adding that what he said had been taken: “way out proportion.”
He said: “If you rewind back to the first game in Sheffield, that year, a Sheffield player wrote in the programme that he disliked Cardiff and hated playing against us. I thought: ‘That’s great - our main rival doesn’t like us but even better that hates playing against us.’
“Within sport, you don’t like the other teams and you do hate your rivals, but you don’t hate every person and fan associated with that club. After the game is done I couldn’t care less who anyone played for, it’s over, you move on to the next game. I think the people that took the most offence to that interview don’t quite get that concept of sport.
“I started playing with Ben O’Connor when I was six years old and we just won a gold medal together with GB.
“Do I hate Ben?
“Absolutely not, I love him BUT when he’s playing against me he’s a Steeler and he’s trying to beat me so I’m not going to like him for those 60 minutes!”
He said that while there is an extra impetus for him to beat Steelers, for Cardiff as a club, it’s just another game.
“For the Devils, there’s no added spice but for me personally, yes there will always be added incentive to win.
“What is weird though is the fact that every time I have won a championship for the first time (Challenge Cup, League, Play Off) it’s been against Sheffield with two of those championship-winning games in Sheffield.
“What makes those achievements special is not the fact that I beat Sheffield like people there probably expect me to say but the fact I got to do it in front of my family - and that for me is the most special part of winning there.”
Bowns retains respect for the Steeler team which ended in third place behind them, as champions, and Manchester Storm.
“We knew they could hurt us but so could any team in the league, last year. We just made sure we were fully prepared and stuck to a game plan, simple really.”
* Dave Simms takes Bowns’s view of his article on the chin.
“I don’t remember writing that - do you remember something you wrote years ago?” he said.
“But I must have believed it, at the time.
“If I have spurred him on, then I will happily take credit for that - he has been a fantastic success for his club and his country.
“In fact I think I may deserve a cut of his wages, if I have played a part.
“At the end of the day all I can do is congratulate him, especially after what he achieved last season with Cardiff and Great Britain. He has done our nation proud, as have the rest of the GB lads.”