DANNY Meyers acknowledges his signing for Sheffield Steelers could well divide opinion in two cities, after Ryan Finnerty won the race for his signature.
The 29-year-old British defenceman became the target for a number of Elite League clubs after he was surprisingly axed by Steelers’ arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers last week.
Panthers coach Corey Neilson decided his team’s bid for an elusive top-flight regular season league title would be better served by bringing in experienced Coventry Blaze D-man Jonathan Weaver, leaving his captain Meyers – a servant of the club for six years – surplus to requirements.
The rumour mill went into overdrive over Meyers’s next destination, but his switch to the Steelers is bound to leave a sour taste in the mouth of some Panthers fans, some of who bombarded internet forums last week criticising the East Midlands club’s decision to let their captain go.
And while his move on a two-year deal to South Yorkshire may not initially provoke a universal chorus of approval among his new club’s fans, it is anticipated they will quickly forget his ‘chequered’ past and embrace him as one of their own – particularly if he produces the kind of wholehearted performances that made him a firm favourite with rival fans at the NIC.
Meyers was first approached by Finnerty last summer about a possible move to the Steelers, something he quickly turned down as he had no desire to leave Nottingham. But 10 days ago, his hand was forced when Neilson wielded the axe.
“There’s no scandal, there was no big fall-out from me leaving Nottingham – but I’ve got to be honest and admit that it hurt,” said Meyers.
“I was happy there and I was fully committed to the club. But things change and the Steelers were one of the first to get in touch.
“I listened to Ryan and Tony’s (Smith, owner) plans for the club and I was impressed with what they had to say. Ryan was hurt at not winning anything last year and you usually find that whenever the Steelers have a trophyless season they usually bounce back with a vengeance next time around.”
Meyers admitted there were a few nerves about the likely reaction over his switch to his former club’s arch-rivals and anticipates criticism from various directions as a result.
But he arrives at the Motorpoint Arena determined to lift the one trophy that eluded him during his time with Nottingham – a regular season league title.
“I had hoped so much to help deliver that league title to the Panthers, but it wasn’t to be,” he added.
“I certainly don’t underestimate the sensitivity of my signing for the Steelers, but the Panthers didn’t want me and Sheffield so obviously did.
“It’s a good fit for me both personally and playing-wise. At 29, I fell like I’m approaching my prime and making it a two-year deal was important because I wanted to show my commitment to the club and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s two years at the moment but, who knows – if I stay at Sheffield long enough I may be remembered more for being a Steeler than a Panther in years to come.”
Finnerty, currently back home in North America, believes he has signed the best British defenceman in the league.
“Make no mistake, this is a huge signing for us,” said Finnerty.
“Signing Danny makes us better in many areas, we are firstly just better, we are deeper and we will run six quality D-men next season, we are more experienced and we have more leadership.
“Danny is a strong and positive personality, he will fit in very well.”
Elsewhere, the road forward to take over Hull Stingrays seems to have opened up for bench coach Bobby McEwan, who is bidding to take control of the club along with local businessman Nic Gough.
A rival bidder, Paul Fielder, was reported on Thursday to have pulled out of the running to take the team on after the current ownership – who also own Elite League rivals Coventry Blaze – announced last week they would not be continuing for a third season.
It follows a similar withdrawal earlier this week by former Hull player Slava Koulikov, who instead opted to take on the player-coach position at English Premier League outfit Slough Jets.
The current owners said last week that they favoured the McEwan/Gough bid for the club, which is thought to have the backing of player-coach Sylvain Cloutier who is known to be keen to return for a fourth season in charge after guiding the club to the play-off final four.
The only sticking point to a transition of ownership seems to be the price sought by the owners and that willing to be paid by the leading bidders.
As warned at the end of the post-season by both Cloutier and McEwan, time is precious if Hull want to build on last season’s success, with several of their players known to have been approached by other clubs at both Elite League and EPL level.
IN the EPL, Sheffield Steeldogs have announced a further three signings in addition to the controversial announcement last week that Tom Squires had returned to the club from Elite League neighbours Steelers.
The 21-year-old forward rejected the offer of a two-way deal from the Steelers which would have seen him link up with Telford Tigers, instead opting for a return to the club he last playerd for two years ago.
He will be joined next season by returning players Greg Wood, Ben Morgan and Steve Duncombe, who all played key roles in the success enjoyed under player-coach Andre Payette, who steered the club to a third-place regular finish and a play-off semi-final spot.
News of the three signings for the Steeldogs, is likely to be tempered, however, with the expected departure of league-leading goaltender Ben Bowns, who is believed to have signed for an Elite League club.