Sheffield Steelers coach Paul Thompson lands big helping hand

John Armstrong has signed with Sheffield Steelers for the 2016-17 season.
John Armstrong has signed with Sheffield Steelers for the 2016-17 season.
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PAUL THOMPSON believes he has made a “big” statement with his latest addition to the Sheffield Steelers roster.

The arrival of Canadian centre John Armstrong on a two-year deal has ticked a number of boxes for the Steelers’ head coach, especially given the 28-year-old’s size and puck-handling ability.

John Armstrong.

John Armstrong.

A third round draft pick for the Calgary Flames in the 2006 NHL draft, Armstrong never made it to ‘the show’ but went on to enjoy an impressive career elsewhere, playing more than 170 games during a three-and-a-half year spell in the AHL.

After 140 games in the ECHL, Armstrong made the move to Europe, first playing for Lillehammer in Norway before spending last season with Odense Bulldogs in Denmark.

Having previously coached in Denmark, Thompson made extensive use of his contacts to get substantial feedback on his target, none of which came back negative.

“I wanted size in the middle and that is one of the attributes that John brings,” said Thompson. “I wanted a big centre with a big reach, a man who could hold onto the puck and keep it down low

I’m keen on bringing people here who will contribute to the group. My feed back on John was excellent on the ice as a player and even better off it. I think he is a good fit for what we need.

Paul Thompson, Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, on new signing John Armstrong.

“John played in Denmark last year with Odense Bulldogs. He had a terrific year. I used my contacts from my time over there and had some great feedback about him as a player and a person.

“I’m keen on bringing people here who will contribute to the group. My feedback on John was excellent on the ice as a player and even better off it. I think he is a good fit for what we need.”

As for the player himself, it helped that another former Steeler in the shape of Gord Baldwin was on hand to offer some friendly advice to Armstrong.

Defenceman Baldwin was in Sheffield from 2013-15 before retiring from playing as an EIHL play-off champion.

Sheffield Steelers head coach, Paul Thompson. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Sheffield Steelers head coach, Paul Thompson. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“Gord is a good friend of mine and when I had the approach from Sheffield he was my first port of reference,” said Armstrong. “After a 10-minute conversation with him I was sold and wanted to sign. Gord loved the city, the club and the people and I think given half a chance he would have been on a plane sat next to me.

“As a player I take great pride in both ends of the ice, offensively and defensively. I’m strong in the corners, I hold on to the puck and try and create for my team mates.

“I can shoot as well, I have a good shot, but through most of my career I have more assists than goals”

Armstrong will make his Steelers debut on the weekend of August 13 and 14 against Danish side Aalborg Pirates, two exhibition games ahead of the Champions Hockey League fixtures in Sweden and Austria.