Video: Lure of taking on Europe's elite again brings Rod Sarich back into fold for Sheffield Steelers

AS retirements go, it has to be said it's been quite short-lived.

BACK FOR MORE: Sheffield Steelers' defenceman, Rod Sarich. Picture: Dean Woolley.

A few days after helping Sheffield Steelers claim their fifth Elite League title, defenceman Rod Sarich quietly announced he was hanging up his skates.

It brought down the curtain on an impressive career, the majority of which had been spent in South Yorkshire after he had first joined the Steelers back in 2005.

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Sarich had parted with the club once before - not of his own doing - when newly-appointed coach Doug Christiansen decided the affable Canadian was not required for the 2013-14 season.

He returned after a year away from the game and played a pivotal role in helping the Steelers clinch back-to-back regular season titles.

In many ways, it was the perfect time to bow out, on a winning note as well as the added demands of his day job and the commitment and joy brought about from becoming a father for the first time.

But Sarich has been persuaded to come back into the fold less than four months into his ‘retirement’, although both he and the club stress he will only be playing during the club’s Champions Hockey League campaign, which starts on Thursday night in Sweden against HV71 Jonkoping.

Whether that remains the case is anyone’s guess though, as it is clear that, after two warm-up games at the weekend against Danish club Aalborg, the 35-year-old is delighted to be out competing on the ice again.

BACK FOR MORE: Sheffield Steelers' defenceman, Rod Sarich. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“At the end of last season I wasn’t sure what was happening exactly. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to be invited back, so my plan was for retirement and it pretty much still is,” explained Sairch.

“But when the club did ask me if I’d be interested in coming back to play, after a bit of deliberation, I felt it was too good an opportunity to pass up. So it’s kind of like one last hurrah and here I am.”

Last year’s first-ever CHL game for the Steelers proved a baptism of fire, as they went down 9-1 at Frolunda Gothenburg - a scoreline which slightly flattered their Swedish hosts after the visitors ran into penalty trouble early in the third period, a passage of play which saw them leak seven goals.

But both the Steelers’ performances and their competitiveness improved in the next three group games, all ending in narrow defeats.

THAT WAS NICE: Sheffield Steelers' Rod Sarich celebrates winning last year's Elite League title - the club's fifth. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Sarich believes last year’s experience will only help Paul Thompson’s team this time around in a daunting first week which sees them take on Red Bull Salzburg 48 hours after facing four-time Swedish champions HV71.

“It’s going to be a steep learning curve for us again,” added Sarich. “And the competition is going to be very tough again I’m sure. But we had such a good time playing the games - they were difficult don’t get me wrong - but it is fun playing at that level and that speed and I think we adjusted well last year and I’m confident we will this year.”

And if Steelers’ CHL campaign again finishes at the group stage this season - their final fixture sees them host Salzburg on September 11 - what will the playing future hold for Sarich?

“We’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it,” he replies diplomatically. “I’m feeling okay, it’s definitely not going to be full-time again because there are too many other commitments at the minute.

FAMILIAR FACE: Sheffield Steelers' Rod Sarich will return to action for the club against HV71 Jonkoping and Red Bull Salzburg.

“I’m just enjoying this at the minute and we’ll see where it leads.”

BACK FOR MORE: Sheffield Steelers' defenceman, Rod Sarich. Picture: Dean Woolley.
THAT WAS NICE: Sheffield Steelers' Rod Sarich celebrates winning last year's Elite League title - the club's fifth. Picture: Dean Woolley.
FAMILIAR FACE: Sheffield Steelers' Rod Sarich will return to action for the club against HV71 Jonkoping and Red Bull Salzburg.