HAVING played against them for most of his professional career, Davey Phillips has always been aware of the huge expectations surrounding Sheffield Steelers.
But coping with the pressure that comes with pulling on the Steelers’ jersey is exactly why Phillips signed up for the defending Elite League champions in the summer – as well as giving him the chance to hook up once more with head coach Paul Thompson.
And while life in South Yorkshire has been a bit of a baptism of fire for the 29-year-old defenceman with three defeats to European opposition in the Champions Hockey League, Phillips is confident he has joined a club that will go on to lift more silverware this season.
“Playing against them in the past, you realise that they demand a lot from their players and so they should because they are a huge club,” said Phillips, who began his career with hometown club Hull Stingrays in 2003.
“It’s a big, successful club – there is a demand to win trophies here and, as a player, I want to win trophies so to play for a club like this is perfect for me.”
Sunday night sees the Steelers take a break from European action when they get their domestic campaign underway at home to Phillips’s former club, Manchester Storm, in the Challenge Cup.
Phillips spent just the one season with Manchester, player-coach Omar Pacha’s team just missing out on the play-offs. Ultimately, Phillips believes, their late entry into the league after they were installed as an 11th-hour replacement for Hull Stingrays – whre Phillips was originally destined – is probably what caught up with them in the end.
“It was a good season,” said Phillips. “Obviously it was a quick turnaround with them coming into the league so late, so it was a bit rushed at the start with everything, but they’ve done well and made huge strides as a club going forward and they should be proud of themselves.
“It’s difficult to know what to expect from them this season to be honest. They’ve pretty much put together a new team this summer. It’s always difficult playing there; it’s a small building, the games will be quick and the ice surface isn’t great.”
I want to win trophies so to play for a club like this is perfect for me.Sheffield Steelers’ David Phillips
For Phillips, one of the biggest attractions for making the switch to the Steelers was head coach and GM Thompson. The GB international has previously worked under him both for the national team and at Coventry Blaze.
His time in the West Midlands followed his return from a two-year stint in North America when he became the first British-trained player to play in the American Hockey League. Phillips the Rockford Ice Hogs, the affiliate for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks.
Thompson played a part in Phillips’s move to the USA. given his contacts at the Blackhawks, making it less of a surprise when the two hooked up once again in South Yorkshire.
“He’s been around long enough to know everything you need to know,” said Phillips. “He knows every player individually and what they bring to the team – their strengths and weaknesses.
“He has done a great job of putting each piece of the puzzle together here and we’ve got a really well-balanced team here, from top-to-bottom.
“His preparation for each game is great too - the video we get to look at before each game and after and how we prepare for each team individually and how prepare ourselves – it’s second to none.”
Before Sunday night’s cup opener, the two teams will play an exhibition match at Altrincham Ice Arena tonight, in which Thompson will give back-up netminder Brad Day the start.
Apprentices Cole Shudra and Liam Kirk will also see their first significant spell of ice time this season, while talismanic forward Mathieu Roy – who sat out last weekend’s 5-2 CHl defeat at home to HV71 Jonkoping – is rated as 50-50.