WHILE the corks were popping down the M1 at the return of a fans’ favourite to rivals Nottingham Panthers on Thursday, Sheffield Steelers were enjoying a Champagne moment of their own.
Forward Scott Champagne made the long-expected switch from Elite League title rivals Belfast Giants to the Steelers on the same day as David-Alexandre Beauregard made his return to the current title favourites.
Beauregard is regarded as one of the league’s top snipers in recent years – 119 goals in 171 Elite League games – while Champagne is famed for creating opportunities for those around him.
But, according to long-time friend and new team-mate Jeff Legue – who Steelers’ head coach Ryan Finnerty intends to partner his new signing with – 29-year-old Champagne could make himself the toast of South Yorkshire come the end of the season.
“It rarely happens that a good friend of yours comes to play on the same team as you so I’m very excited,” said Legue, who hails from the Ontarian town of Cornwall like Champagne.
“He’s a great player. He’s very good at finding his team-mates with the puck and creating opportunities for them but, if given the chance, he can score as well.
“This is a definite positive for us. When you bring in such a player as good as Scott it can only help lift the room. If nothing else, it makes the guys already in there realise they have got to keep working hard to hold onto their place.”
As so often seems to happen following a player’s move, Champagne’s first game for the Steelers will see him make an instant return to Belfast this Saturday before Finnerty’s team visit Hull 24 hours later.
Champagne, who spent the early part of last season with the Nottingham Panthers before moving to Germany’s second tier, played 18 games for Belfast this season, registering five goals and 10 assists.
“It will be a big night for him,” added Legue.
“He’ll want to prove them wrong for letting him go.”
For whatever reason, things haven’t quite worked out at the odyssey Arena for Champagne, who is only focussing on what is now ahead of him, particularly hooking up with Legue who was instrumental in persuading him that South Yorkshire was the place to be.
“I know Jeff well and I can’t wait to play alongside him,” said Champagne.
“We know each well and I’m sure we can build an excellent partnership together, we will compliment each other I know that.”
DEFENCEMAN Dmitri Rodin has returned to the fold at Hull Stingrays – just six months after leaving.
Due to the long-running ownership wrangles over the East Yorkshire club in the summer, the Estonian international switched to EPL side Sheffield Steeldogs.
Somewhat puzzlingly he was released by the South Yorkshire club last month and was initially picked up by bottom club Telford Tigers.
But, after training with the Stingrays for the past month, Hull player-coach Sylvain Cloutier has brought him back in to help boost the Elite League bottom club’s blue line.
“We have been playing short for a while with Jeff Smith out injured and I felt we needed some help,” said Cloutier.
“I am really pleased to have Dmitri back. He is an experienced guy, he is a leader, he has been around and we know what he can do.
“He will solidify our defence and he will also improve our powerplay. He has a great pass, is patient on the puck and has a good shot on him.”