Simmsey column: Sheffield Steelers lads were Great for Britain

Davey Phillips, Jonathan Phillips, Robert Dowd and Ben O'Connor
Davey Phillips, Jonathan Phillips, Robert Dowd and Ben O'Connor
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Firstly congratulations to all of those involved in Team GB’s Gold Medal win at the World Championships – promotion ensured we are back where we should be, in the second tier of world hockey. Now we can start building to try and make the holy grail, Pool A, we can but dream.

Along with many of you I got excited last week as GB rolled off five straight victories including the winner takes all game against Japan for the Gold medal – our four Steelers boys did their country proud, Davey Phillips, Ben O’Connor and Robert Dowd all exceptional.

A special word for the captain, Jonathan Phillips, another trophy lifted, this one with three facial fractures, instructions not to play yet with a full face cage of for the last four games he didn’t miss a shift let alone a game. What a leader that man is.

I had to remind myself that getting out of this Pool did take three years. We were only in this third tier of the world sport after disastrous mistakes by the governing body. Not one bit of the blame goes to the players, they can only play and beat who is on the ice against them.

The reality is that they should never have been there in the first place showing that mistakes can be costly and those made four or five years ago have taken this long to correct.

The other startling fact was how the speed and quality of the EIHL has now shone through to the national team.

Jonathan Phillips

Jonathan Phillips

That’s good news going forward into next year’s competition. Those British players now play week in and week out at a standard and speed that ensures we are not let behind in these big events. On a selfish level, our boys were at the front of that GB charge and that’s something we should be all very proud of.

Back to Steelers news and Wednesday’s announcement that Colton Fretter has signed a new deal with the club. He continues to be a major influence on all good things happening with Steelers.

Three years ago Fretter would have needed a map to find England let alone Sheffield but in the trio of seasons that have followed he has bought into everything we do here, the Steelers way. He has been a major reason why our club has won three championships in the last three years.

So much nonsense is written in the modern world about players not playing for the shirt and not being the same as those in the past. Well you can’t say anything like that about Fretter. A more determined, more dogmatic individual you will be hard pressed to find. 
His second year with the Steelers was decimated by injury. Many wouldn’t have even tried to come back, especially after securing his MBA at Sheffield University. No the skates would have been hung up.

Not Fretter. The certificate was put in the draw with the note attached “for future use” - the skates came out, the work in the gym started earlier than anyone else, the work in the gym was harder than for anyone else. Paul Thompson gave Fretter the time needed to ease his way back and he was rewarded with goals, big goals. 26 in 48 league games in fact, only a couple behind Mathieu Roy.

Injuries last season as well curtailed what could have been an even more impressive year and after proving the doubters wrong Fretter could have again this summer have hung the skates next to the three championship medals he has won with the club. The good news for us is that Fret’s loves hockey and loves Sheffield, his new home.

The Steelers this summer are building relationships.

Roy and Fretter, Nelson and Dowd, Armstrong and Desbiens. Pieces in the jigsaw slowly falling into place.

I like it and I like having Fretter at the forefront of what we are doing. I feel safe and happy when I see him. I get a warm feeling that things will be ok when #67 and #15 are out there.

* Well they never said it was going to be easy and they weren’t wrong.

The new EIHL conferencing structure was confirmed last week. With two new clubs, Milton Keynes and Guildford the old two conference set up has been expanded to three conferences of four clubs.

Steelers will play four home and four away games against the three teams in their own conference, Nottingham, Belfast and league champions Cardiff.

Then they will play two home and two away games against Edinburgh, Fife, Dundee and Braehead in the Gardner Conference and Coventry, Manchester, Guildford and Milton Keynes in the Erdhart Conference.

A lot has been talked about since the announcements.

Is it fair or unfair?

The reality is that if you want 12 teams in the league. If you don’t want clubs to go to the wall then this is the ONLY solution. Of course it isn’t 100% fair but what in life is.

Yes Braehead and maybe Coventry come out of the new set up the best, they will have a serious chance of lifting the title trophy, however I think the winner will still come from the Steelers, Giants, Panthers and Devils conference.

Big games against big clubs, we are the Steelers, the biggest brand in the EIHL, that’s what we are about. Bring it on.