Just a week after the excellent Sodertalje left Sheffield for Sweden its the turn of the mighty Nurnberg Ice Tigers to arrive from Germany.
Coached of course by former Steelers captain Rob Wilson, the Tigers boast a side with over 2,500 NHL games in it.
Last year they finished third in the DEL and made it to the semi finals of the play offs. In doing so Wilson collected the Coach of the Year prize.
Folks, this is a seriously proper club coming here, multi million euro budgets, this is a big time club.
But this is also the perfect training camp for us. Great opposition, top clubs, great players. The Swedes last weekend and now the Germans. I think Sodertalje were taken by surprise last Saturday. One of their camp said in The Star that he didn’t rate our league too highly, well I bet on Saturday he was thinking something slightly different.
The Germans might be in for a surprise as well. I think both games this weekend will be super competitive. Our players won’t want to be embarrassed, they will be thinking they are every bit as good as those earning five times what they are.
If we are going to get better as a team and as a club then these weekends are part of the learning process. It was a shame the Arena was not ready for the start of the season. These games, especially this one against a one of the best teams in Europe, should have been played at our real home venue. It’s frustrating at times, we try so hard to bring the biggest and the best in. Then we can’t quiet finish off the project because of things outside our control. These are top quality sides we have attracted, teams that other clubs over here would die for to play. Let us please show them the respect they deserve by having some half decent ice for them to entertain us on.
So who impressed you in the first two games? It’s human nature to look at the new guys, we want to see what they are like: do we think they make us better?
I’ll just change things though, the one player that makes us really better is Andreas Valdix, he has returned in incredible shape and if last weekend is anything to go by in even better form. His line with Dowdy and Nelson is explosive and is vital for its goals. Valdix is the glue for that line, he is the hockey IQ and if he is firing then Robert and Levi are firing.
There were 24 Swedes on the ice last weekend, we had the best one by a mile, Andreas was my man of the weekend.
A quick final word on Rob Wilson. He is a good friend, in fact I was his agent when he signed for us. He was a very good player, not a great one. He was also a very good captain and an exceptional leader. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. He spoke from the heart and sometimes upset people.
Rob wouldn’t make the all time Steelers line-up on the blue line as a player, but if you were putting a list together of people who cared the most then not only would he make it, he would captain that side and be the first name of the list. I loved the way he cared for the club, for his fellow players. I learnt a lot from him, about how clubs should treat their players and how that “team mentality” was so important. He was always a hockey players man, he understood the sport, the game and he had a willingness to improve his knowledge.
He has done unbelievably well coaching. He now leads one of the biggest clubs in Europe. I’m proud of him and I thank him for bringing this great club to Sheffield.