SHEFFIELD STEELERS have pulled out all the stops to aid their preparations to reclaim the Elite League crown in 2017-18 by scheduling a tough pre-season against top European opposition.
The Steelers missed out on a third straight regular season crown after Cardiff Devils took the honours, although it was Paul Thompson’s team who ended the campaign on a perfect high when beating their South Wales rivals in double overtime to lift the Play-off crown in Nottingham earlier this month.
Although they will not be in the Champions Hockey League next season, European competitive action will still come Steelers’ way in the shape of the Continental Cup, the Nottingham Panthers becoming the first British club to win that event earlier this year.
But, keen to test themselves against top European teams as early as possible, the Steelers will begin their pre-season preparations against Swedish Allsvenskan side Sodertalje sk on August 12-13.
Even better is to come the following weekend when former Steelers’ captain Rob Wilson brings his German DEL side Nurnburg Ice Tigers to Ice Sheffield for two games.
Wilson, who played for the club between 1996 and 2000, went on to be player-coach at the now defunct Newcastle Vipers, but has enjoyed wide success on the bench in Europe.
We’ve had a terrific season this last year and want to build on that. Pre-season is important to us so we will be looking at these games seriously.Nurnburg Ice Tigers coach, Rob Wilson.
Having worked with Thompson as an assistant coach on the Great Britain senior team between 2006-11, Wilson turned his attentions to coching full-time in Italy.
Two years at Ritten Renon preceded a switch to the DEL where he first worked as head coach at Straubing Tigers at the beginning of 2014-15. After being replaced in November, he moved across to rivals Nurnburg as assistant coach in December, becoming head coach at the start of the following season.
Last season, his second in charge, saw Wilson lead his team to third in the regular season standings before reaching the play-off semi-finals.
Wilson was in Nottingham to see the Steelers defeat Cardiff in the post-season finale in dramatic fashion – the winning goal being struck by one of his former players at Ritten Renon, Levi Nelson.
“It will be great to be back in Sheffield,” said Wilson. “I’m looking forward to bringing my team in, the fans of Sheffield will enjoy watching them. Both clubs, all the players and the fans will all get something important out of these games.
“We’ve had a terrific season this last year and want to build on that. Pre-season is important to us so we will be looking at these games seriously.”
Sodertalje are one of the most highly-regarded clubs in the Swedish game and one that the great Bjorn Borg played for before deciding that he would concentrate on tennis. A decision he no doubt later regretted ...
Thompson, who has worked on the pre-season schedule with his Swedish No 2 Jerry Andersson and who himself coached in Sweden for a season, believes the four pre-season games will provide the ideal preparation for his team.
“I think Rob will enjoy bringing his team to Sheffield,” said Thompson. “Everyone who knows him is extremely proud of his achievements, first in Italy and then in Germany.
“When I was in Sweden everyone talks about Sodertalje. They are one of the romantic names in the sport over there, a classical side. With Jerry Andersson’s contacts over there we were able to propose the idea of two games over here pre-season. In turn they were good enough to agree and we can’t wait to welcome them.
“For us to bring in two great clubs like this gives both players and fans a great opportunity to see two of the biggest sides in Europe. The last two years we have seen with the CHL games that we can compete at the highest level.
“It’s something different for us but also for the fans. As a club we wanted to put on events that were different and would excite our supporters in the late summer months and I’m genuinely excited by these games.”
Pre-season schedule (ice Sheffield)
Saturday, August 12 (7pm): Sodertalje sk
Sunday, August (5pm): Sodertalje sk
Saturday, August 19 (7pm): Nurnberg Ice Tigers
Sunday, August 20 (5pm): Nurnberg Ice Tigers
Tickets for the above games go on sale on Friday, April 21 from Sheffield Arena Box Office at 9am.