Steeler Cole Shudra has to nail down his own spot

Cole Shudra's versatility is admired by coaches across British ice hockey - yet, conflictingly, that adaptability might actually be holding back his career, his agent believes.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 10:40 am
Cole Shudra in action.
Cole Shudra in action.

The South Yorkshireman will be 23 years old by the time the new season starts and will be looking to put in performances that will see him compete for a place in the Great Britain mix.

It promises to be a hard task - there are suggestions there will be fewer Brits selected for EIHL teams for season 2021-22.

Shudra has dressed for Sheffield Steelers on 154 occasions and has developed his skill-set at Coventry Blaze in the EIHL mini series, Nittorps IK in Sweden, Telford Tigers and a 46-game loan period at Milton Keynes Lightning.

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He has played up front and at the back - wherever and whenever his coach has needed him.

Chris Bailey, CEO of Shudra's representatives at ON:iT Sports Management, sees that as a blessing and a curse.

"It is really attractive to people - that ability to play at both ends.

"But the person who benefits the least in Cole.

Cole Shudra in the dressing room.

"Think of a Phil Neville in football, for instance. He'd play some weeks in midfield, then he'd be left fullback.

"He never really got his spot.

"Look at others on (ice hockey) rosters and they are making that spot their own. In order to progress has to find his spot."

It is an issue that Bailey hopes can be resolved.

Zack Fitzgerald.

"While flexibility is really attractive for a team, because you can get extra cover, for Cole he needs to be nailing down a place in a position that he makes his own," said Bailey.

"I speak to various different people about our players, and I try to get feedback from different coaches, and they say he is a great player and should be getting good ice time at an Elite League level."

Establishing yourself in a competitive, high quality roster like Sheffield was far from easy, Bailey said.

"Sheffield kids want to be part of the Steelers' organisation. Who doesn't want to be part of the team that they grew up following?

"Steelers want to win the league, the cup, the play offs and get in the CHL so why wouldn't you want to be a part of that?

"Cole is a very determined young man and he has the right attitude towards achieving his goal."

Zack Fitzgerald, one of the most loved Steelers of the last 10 years, won't be back in the EIHL.

The former defenceman was coach at Glasgow Clan but wasn't able to start a second season there, as he had expected.

He is now working at The Hockey Factory in Toronto and then coaching in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, with players next in line for the OHL draft.

Fitzgerald, 36, had a great affinity with fans in Sheffield and Scotland but says: "You won’t see me on a bench over there."

Meanwhile, Hallam University graduate Tom Relf has left Sheffield Steeldogs for Romford Raiders.

The Surrey-born defenceman, 23, joined Dogs in 2017 and played every season, while studying.