Sheffield Steelers: ‘There should be no rivalry with Steeldogs’
A former Sheffield Steelers' apprentice is relishing the idea of helping develop their young guns at lower league Sheffield Steeldogs.
Elite League club boss Tony Smith has said that "spare" players will be sent to iceSheffield to get ice time, if they don't make the cut at the Arena on any given night.
That could mean the likes of Kieran Brown, Cole Shudra, Jordan Griffin or Brandon Whistle occasionally swapping shirts.
A closer and more harmonious working relationship will be a win-win for both, says Dogs' assistant coach Greg Wood, once a member of the Mike Blaisdell hockey school and a former Steeler trainee.
Now aged 32, the centreman, who has retired from the ice after a hip injury, said a good relationship with Steelers was "the way it should be. There are two teams in Sheffield, but it is not a rivalry."
He said it benefited Steelers by Dogs giving players plenty of ice time and developing young skaters.
"As a coach, you can look at winning trophies, but I think the real reward is when you develop a player and move them on to a bigger and not so much better club but a higher level to play at,” he said.
One player he is specifically looking forward to working alongside is Alex Graham, the latest Steelers' apprentice, who played 19 games with Dogs after turning 16.
Wood has known Graham for 10 years describing him as "a super, super talented lad."
He'd started playing for Dogs after his birthday in January.
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"From them on I think Morgs (head coach Ben Morgan) had him in the team pretty much regularly. He picked up a few goals and a few assists, obviously impressed Morgs massively.
"He is very mature, calm on the puck, makes good decisions, has got a really good hockey IQ, so hopefuly we can use him, we can develop him, we can play him in the right situations, he is not just going to be a checking guy."
Wood said he would be used as a creative player on special teams in NIHL National Division to develop his own skill-set.
The assistant coach thinks Graham maybe two years away from being an Elite League regular.
"To be honest I don't think it would benefit him to move up too early," he said.
"I think he is a guy that has to be playing in all situations, power play, penalty kill, making plays, playing with guys that are probably a little ahead of him at the minute, that will compliment and develop his own game."
As for the other potential two-way deal players he said he looked forward to building a relationship "where we can use any of those guys - not only would it benefit us by improving the quality on our team, it will keep the Steelers' guys sharp and match fit so that if they are drafted into the match-night squad straight away they are ready to play."
Wood accepted some senior-level players might not like taking a step down to a lower league.
But speaking from experience, he said some players like Steelers' GB star Robert Dowd, had stayed at a lower (EPL) level long enough to hone their skills and he had clearly benefited from the extra ice time as a youngster.