The Steelers' veteran who turned back the clock

Every skater who took part in the 2021 EIHL series will have a tale to tell their grandkids about the time they played ice hockey in a pandemic.

Sunday, 9th May 2021, 12:28 pm

But out of all those who graced the ice at Nottingham, no one has a better story to tell than Jason Hewitt

He left Sheffield Steelers in 2016, concerned at the numbers of imports and the effect it would have on his ice time.

After playing alongside the likes of Tyler Mosienko, Levi Nelson and Mathieu Roy, 'Hewy' arrived at the relatively modest surrounds of Hull Pirates in the second-flight.

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There he went on to become player-coach and Steeler fans thought they'd seen the last of him.

But 2021 coach Aaron Fox gambled on him in the draft, and Hewitt repaid his faith with a string of performances which defied any suggestion he was a NIHL-grade player alone.

In 16 EIHL matches, the 37-year-old scored five goals and six assists, constantly stood up for his team-mates, won many face offs, and played in all game-situations.

It was almost as if the Steelers had two Brendan Connollys on the team.

Jason Hewitt - a born leader. Pic: Dean Woolley
Jason Hewitt - a born leader. Pic: Dean Woolley

When the Mancunian reflects on his part in the tournament, you get the feeling he is still in a bit of a daze about it.

"When I got a call from a couple of people asking if I was up for the draft I didn't really know much about the tournament. I had just assumed it was for people who were already playing in the EIHL. But that wasn't how it turned out," he said.

"I was a little apprehensive to go into it, I didn't know if it was a case of me having 'had my time' and I should just leave it but now I am definitely glad I did.

"I was quite intrigued to see how I'd fit in.

Goal for Steeldog Hewitt: Pic: Podium Prints.

"I knew it was an in-between sort of level with just the eight imports - but I also knew it was going to be good hockey. And the biggest thing for me was to see if I really could do it..if I could do any damage at that level.

"It was more of a personal challenge, that was the biggest reason I went for it and I obviously wanted to help Sheffield."

Hewitt, who had played with many of the Steeler players in the past, found it did not take long to enjoy the vibe.

"It had felt a bit strange at first, being back in Sheffield it was a dreamland kind of thing, it didn't feel real. That soon settled down, though, I didn't feel like an outsider and I was soon back in the swing of things."

Liam Kirk's injury put Steelers out of sync. Pic: Dean Woolley

In his third game, he got on the scoresheet against Coventry Blaze. In his fourth, he scored one goal and two assists against Nottingham Panthers.

In a five match spree, he'd collected six points.

"I probably got more minutes out there than I expected," he said.

"My biggest fear had been going into the series and then coming out of it with a sour taste. But that didn't happen.

"Face offs have been a bit of a strong point for me, I did OK there, I was on the power play and penalty kill...I was surprised to get as much PP as I did, but it turned out the unit did quite well: me

Tanner Eberle, Josef Mikyksa, Jeremy Beaudry and Robert Dowd for the most part. It was fun to play with such high skilled players."

So did the forward have a favourite moment in the tournament?

"Being a part of it generally, and playing better hockey again, was the highlight for me" he replied.

"Obviously it didn't end the way we wanted (losing in the finals) but it was a well put together event and I feel fortunate to be apart from it. I am proud of the points and in scoring a couple of goals."

Did Hewitt have a theory on why the goals eventually dried up against series champions Nottingham?

"I think Liam (Kirk) carrying an injury changed the dynamic of our lines, a little bit.

"I have to say, as much as it pains me, Nottingham really did adjust their game in the last two matches.

"It felt like it wasn't meant to be. Every time we put pressure on and thought we were going to take over the game, something happened that was a dagger in the heart, whether it was a penalty or a goal that maybe could have been prevented.

"It certainly didn't work out in those last two games.

"I felt we were a step off and didn't play our game and execute what we were trying to do and they executed really well."

Hewitt has recovered quickly from the hectic five weeks.

"When I initially saw the schedule I thought it would be way more tiring than it turned out to be.

"Other than a couple of niggles that I was dealing with it was fine on the body, I didn't feel bad at all.

"I had a few drinks on the Monday after the final and wish I never did! But the whole thing was fun."