JEFF LEGUE’S return to Sheffield Steelers may have ended in defeat to arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers, but he is convinced he has rejoined a roster as good as any he’s seen during his long affiliation with the club.
At the end of the 2013-14 campaign, the 33-year-old centre quit after seven seasons at the Motorpoint Arena, ending on a high with a third play-off title to add to the two league championships he had also won during his time there.
The birth of his first son was the main reason behind his decision to make the switch to neighbouring Sheffield Steeldogs, the part-time role there enabling him to do what he wanted most – spend more time with his family.
But a change in his personal circumstances combined with the knowledge that he missed playing top-flight hockey convinced him he could not turn down the chance to return to the Steelers for a second spell when it came up just before Christmas.
And the “big games” he so craved are coming thick and fast with the two festive defeats to Nottingham being followed by this weekend’s double header at defending regular season champions Belfast Giants, the first encounter facing off tonight (7pm).
“There are always nerves before any big game but there were probably a few more for me on Boxing Day at home to Nottingham, having not played in front of such a big crowd for a while,” said Legue.
“But, after a couple of shifts, it felt like old times. Playing against Nottingham was the perfect way to get back into it – those are the kind of big games I had missed and wanted to be involved in.
“The results didn’t go our way, but I felt we played well over the two games.”
The play-off winning team that Legue was part of last season has seen major changes since his departure, but the Canadian is clearly impressed with the roster he has returned to, one that starts 2015 at the top of the overall standings.
“The team I have come back into is quite different to the one I played in last season,” added Legue. “There’s a lot of offensive power which is scary – but it’s good to be a part of that.
“This group of players that we have here now is one of the most talented I’ve been a part of. The skill level is certainly up there with any of the teams I have been involved with here.”