Would it be a gamble to bring John Armstrong back to Sheffield Steelers?

Would Sheffield Steelers take a chance on re-signing players that haven't played competitive ice hockey since March 2020?

Sunday, 4th July 2021, 12:14 pm
John Armstrong - he'd fit right back in says Phillips. Pic by Dean Woolley

Well, there are two potential justifications for them to consider over bringing back John Armstrong, for instance: and those reasons are Tanner Eberle and Ben O'Connor.

Eberle returned to Steelers for the mini-series in April, after a long period of hockey inactivity, and ended up being easily the top points scorer across the entire EIHL tournament.

O'Connor had played at NIHL level earlier this year though he missed the EIHL series - yet he soon picked up the pace for Great Britain in the World Championships in Latvia, playing big minutes in all seven games.

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All their hard work in the gym paid off.

The fans would certainly love to see centreman Armstrong back in Sheffield and vying for a place in the top two forward lines - competing for the best spots alongside the likes of new signing Justin Hodgman and returnee Brendan Connolly.

In centreman terms, that is what you would call strength in depth!

The EIHL club is not discussing whether 'Big John' will be back in orange or not.

But winger Jonathan Phillips knows where he stands on the debate and he’s adamant that a move for Armstrong would be one worth taking ahead of the new season.

"I haven't been told and don't know what John's position is but have no fear, fitness wouldn't be an issue to John," said the club skipper.

"He is always in the best possible shape, his timing will soon come back when he gets on the ice.

"You saw that with Tanner in the Elite Series. After a week you wouldn't have known he hadn't played for so long.

John Armstrong in action for Sheffield Steelers. Pic: Dean Woolley

"John has been a huge part of this club, I know when he came back for his second stint he wanted to be a major cog in the wheel here and he showed in our Challenge Cup win how important he can be for us.

"Aaron (Fox; coach) will do the right thing by the club, if he thinks Big John is right for us then he would be welcomed back with open arms."

Phillips' long-standing team-mate at Steelers and Great Britain Robert Dowd is also rooting for the return of Armstrong.

And as Eberle's situation has not been confirmed by the club, he is keeping a close eye on that situation too.

“I hope Aaron finds a way to bring Ebz back" said Dowd.

“He has got better and better every year with us and showed in the Elite Series how dynamic he could be, even though he hadn’t played in over a year.

“Coaches like Ebz because he can play up and down the line-up in various roles. He can score, kill penalties and he brings that no-nonsense grit to the game.

“He loves Sheffield. I know that, I couldn’t see him playing for anyone else in our league, but Europe or back home in North America, who knows, he will have options.”