Steelers’ captain Jonathan Phillips is licking his lips at the prospect of facing former NHL stars in the club’s friendly games.
Sheffield play Södertälje Sportklubb of Sweden’s second tier first, before facing the more onerous task of competing with import-laden Nurnberg Ice Tigers.
The German DEL side’s roster is like a ‘Who’s Who’ list of one time NHL regulars.
Among them is defenceman Tom Gilbert, who boasts no fewer than 672 NHL games with Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Florida Panthers and Montréal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings.
The 34-year-old signed for the German team in Summer and will be looking to impress.
He shares a new locker room with Brett Festerling, 89 NHL games with Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets, David Steckel, 456 games with Anaheim, Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs, Brandon Segal, 103 games with Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers and Phillipe Dupuis, who has had 116 games with Colorado Avalanche and Toronto.
Phillips says: “If that’s not hard enough, our opponents will have been in training for a month and we will be stepping straight into those games! But hopefully pre-season will do for us what the CHL games did last year - get us at that fast pace and the high calibre you need.”
The skipper points out Rob Wilson’s German team represents the most foreboding task.
“The Swedes will bring quality and skill - and they’ll be quick. It will be like playing 23 Markus Nilssons! Most of their players are not far off or on the verge of being Swedish elite league players. They will be more like HV 71 were last year than Aalborg were in terms of quality. But the Germans will just be stacked with talent.
“Nurnberg have guys who have been amongst the best in the world. It is great playing them, we don’t seem teams like this often, so to play them gives you an idea where you are.”
Phillips said the pre-season games will be “not just about fitness but about setting the tone for the season.
“We used to play a Hull or another elite league team but with games like this and last year’s CHL it helped us become so much quicker and put on a good level.
According to their website, Södertälje have just one import, Thomas Valkvae-Olsen, a Norwegian international, signed in June. They are coached by Mats Waltin, who played 236 international matches and won Olympic and World Cup medals.