The Winning Formula
They may be third in the league right now but with seven games in hand over number one and six games in hand over number two many would argue that the Sheffield Steelers are in the best situation of all. Though games in hand don’t necessarily mean points the Steelers have shown this year that they can grind out the wins when it’s needed even if the odds seem stacked against them. The only team to of gotten the better of them regularly this year is their closest rivals Nottingham but even this hasn’t affected their climb up the table. Despite the fact that they have been winning more than losing coach, Ryan Finnerty, has been determined to make changes and strengthen his squad until he feels he has the right group of guys to win and retain the league title he so narrowly missed out on the previous year captaining Cardiff.
Some of the top players recruited by Coach Finnerty this season have been the likes of CHL champion Colt King who was sought after by several teams in the EIHL and has been proving why as he regularly lights the lamp and strikes bodies into the boards in the Motorpoint Arena. Another player brought in this year has been defensemen Matt Stephenson fresh from 2 and a half seasons in the AHL he has been the key to Steelers strength at the back end along with net minder John DeCaro. The trip to Europe earlier this season wasn’t a success and they also find themselves out of the Challenge Cup but this is only more reason to concentrate on the league title without distraction. The Steelers this year are able to turn up to a rink and be out of a game for fifty nine minutes and still win. They only need sixty seconds of good play and they are able to capitalise on the chances and squeeze out the points. This is a sign of a winning team, and one I believe will have the trophy come the end of March.
When one of the best forwards in the league Luke Fulghum was released from Coventry Blaze for financial reasons he was signed for Sheffield within a couple of hours, such is the intent of Finnerty and the Steelers Organisation for success. Another thing going the right way for Sheffield this year is the ownership, after the up and down sage of Bob Phillips and Paul Ragan the company became the property of Rhino owner Tony Smith. The reason this is such a good thing is not because he will front the money for the Coach to use or anything along those lines. All owners before were able to put the costs up at the time but they did it at a cost. Tony Smith knows what it is like to see the Steelers at risk, he has been there as a fan and it will be safely stored in his mind just how easy it is for the franchise to go down in flames and I believe there is no way he would let this happen. He isn’t just another owner, he is a fan. He won’t spend what he hasn’t got at the risk of losing his team and this is something that has been needed in Sheffield for a long time.
The slogan for this year’s Festival Of Hockey was “20 years of success” with Smith at the helm it could very likely be twenty years more. Along with Smith is love him or hate him David Simms doing everything he can to make the Steelers the number one brand in the UK ice hockey. He does things people disagree with and he says things that just plainly wind some teams (and organisations) up but the truth is, and we all know it, he loves the Steelers to the bone and finally he has a boss up in the Arena who shares such a passion rather than seeing just a business venture. The factors of Smith, Simms and Finnerty are making a winning formula and I am sure if they don’t come out on top this year then they will make sure they are unstoppable the next. The future of the Steelers doesn’t just look certain, it is healthier than ever.