JONATHAN Phillips insists he has no problem at being replaced as captain of Sheffield Steelers, after import forward Steven Goertzen was handed the armband for the 2013-14 Elite League season.
Head coach Doug Christiansen put the issue of captaincy for the current campaign to a vote among players and coaching staff, with 29-year-old Canadian forward Goertzen - now in his second season in South Yorkshire - getting the nod.
Phillips, who was brought to the club in 2006 by former coach Dave Matsos, will be one of the team’s two assistants along with new import defenceman Gord Baldwin.
The 31-year-old, from Cardiff, led the club to two league titles and two play-off titles during his leadership, something he was proud to do but which he also realised wouldn’t last forever.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my six-and-a-half seasons as club captain,” said Phillips.
“It was always going to come to an end and I am delighted that it is a man like Steve who takes the job on - he has leader written all over him and is hugely respected inside our room and around the league.”
Wearing the ‘C’ will be nothing new to Goertzen, who captained San Antonio Rampage in the AHL and who missed the opening weekend of the season due to his ongoing recovery from a shoulder operation in July.
Goertzen will mark his first game as Steelers’ captain this weekend in Scotland as Christiansen’s team look to bounce back from last Sunday’s 4-1 Challenge Cup defeat at home to Nottingham Panthers with league games against Edinburgh Capitals and Dundee Stars.
“It’s a huge honour to be voted captain by your team-mates,” said Goertzen.
“I don’t think wearing a letter on my chest will effect my leadership style. I try and lead by example out on the ice. You can’t tell guys in the room to work harder if you’re not doing the same yourself.”
Hull Stingrays will be significantly boosted for Sunday night’s home encounter in the Challenge Cup against Cardiff Devils.
Sylvain Cloutier’s team opened their Group B campaign with a 9-3 defeat at Nottingham last Saturday in a match which doubled as a league game.
They hit back the following night with a 5-2 win over Braehead Clan in the league and will be boosted even further by the arrival this week of their two remaining imports.
Canadian duo Kyle Mariani and Carl Lauzon will make their debuts against Gerad Adams’s side, the former skating with the team for the first time on Friday morning with forward Lauzon appearing at the rink towards the end of practice. The club are hoping to get him on the ice before the game with Devils.
“Both guys will boost our powerplay and we will now have two strong units,” said player-coach Cloutier. “They are competitors and I am delighted to have them with us.
“But it is going to take them a couple of weeks to get adjusted. They have only just arrived here and Lauzon has not even got on the ice yet. The good thing is we have a game on Wednesday as well as two games next weekend so that will speed things up for them.”
Hull travel to Ice Sheffield on Wednesday night to take on the Steelers in the Challenge Cup.
In the English Premier League, Sheffield Steeldogs will look to continue the form which saw them lift the pre-season War of the Roses trophy against Manchester Phoenix.
Andre Payette’s side begin their 2013-14 campaign proper with two EPL Cup games, the first at Bracknell Bees tonight before an early rekindling of hostilities in Manchester tomorrow.