THE milestones seem to come every few months for Sheffield Steelers’ evergreen captain Jonathan Phillips – and he has no intention of ending his collection of them anytime soon.
Last Sunday’s 4-3 defeat at Belfast Giants may not have been the ideal way for 36-year-old forward to have marked his 800th appearance for the club, but there is no logical reason why the GB international will not be celebrating another century of appearances in the next 18 months or so.
Tonight at Sheffield Arena the Steelers will mark his latest career landmark with a special presentation ahead of their Elite League game against Dundee Stars, providing another moment of which Phillips can be rightly proud.
“It is something to be extremely proud of,” said Phillips, who made his debut for the South Yorkshire club back in 2006 after switching from hometown club Cardiff Devils.
“It’s just something that seems to have crept up on me – it certainly doesn’t feel like 800 games ago that first I came to Sheffield.”
As many hockey fans will testify, Phillips literally shows no signs of slowing down, skating as fluently as he ever has done.
“My fitness is always something I’ve prided myself on and I still feel like I did when I first came through those Arena doors,” added Phillips. “I feel like I’m skating as well as I ever have. and I certainly don’t want to retire yet. I want to play for the next couple of years – maybe more.”
Of immediate concern to Phillips, however, is the form of the Steelers who go into tonight’s game on the back of a three-game losing run.
The Stars are yet to beat the Steelers this season, but if they record back-to-back victories this weekend – Phillips and his team-mates travel to Tayside tomorrow – they could leapfrog their opponents and leave them outside the top eight play-off spots.
“We have to realise that these are all like play-off games from this point onwards,” warned Phillips. “Fighting for a place in the play-offs has the same intensity and difficulty as being at the top end fighting for the title.
I feel like I’m skating as well as I ever have. and I certainly don’t want to retire yet. I want to play for the next couple of years – maybe more.Sheffield Steelers’ Jonathan Phillips
“Just because we’re Sheffield Steelers doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed a place in the play-offs – we’re going to have to earn it, the same as every other team.”