Steelers star O’Connor will move on again

Ben O'Connor: Loves to travel the world of ice hockey
Ben O'Connor: Loves to travel the world of ice hockey
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Ben O’Connor may have two years to run on his Sheffield Steelers’ contract - but that hasn’t taken the ambition out of the super-skilled defenceman.

The The 26-year-old Great Britain international has a CV which few people of his age can boast - playing his chosen sport for clubs in Canada, France and Kazakhstan as well as being likened by present coach to the legendary Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.

Sheffield did some very smart business in bringing him to the club on a long-contract, last season.

But, not surprisingly, O’Connor has a yearning to spread his wings when that deal is up.

And he sees this season - with it’s Champions League sortie against Frölunda Gothenburg and JYP Jyväskylä- as a shop window for his dreams of further achievement.

Yet the Durham born talent, who says a d-man’s best years are 27-30, knows he has to continue on an upwards trajectory. Asked if he still had a wanderlust - he was playing on the other side of the Atlantic on his 16th birthday - he said: “Definitely: I love to travel and want to play at the highest level before I finish and see what happens.

“I would look at Europe but not north America - you have to see what you can accomplish and guys are going into the NHL at 20, and I’m well past that.

“I have loved everywhere I have played and had some great life experiences to pass on to my grandchildren,” says the Russian-speaking athlete.

“The Champions League is a difficult test but it will be a shop window, a lot of eyes will be watching all the players. Finland and Sweden are massive hockey nations and it will mean guys will push themselves even more so to put on a show.”

O’Connor was flattered by coach Paul Thompson’s comparison of him with Karlsson but he doesn’t feel it puts more pressure on him to perform.

“I have known him for a long time, we worked together at Coventry Blaze and the Great Britain team and have always kept in touch when I have been away.

“He wants me to do what I can do offensively while focusing on my defensive game.

“Everybody can improve and I am no different. I have to work harder, make smarter decisions in my own zone with the first pass and become all round quicker and stronger, said the son of Steelers’ executive Mike.

“But with the fitness coach Danny Mawer and the new structures being put into place, I think it is going to be a good year for everyone. “

“The target has to be to win all three domestic trophies this coming season.”