WITH a young child now toddling around the home and a full-time job, Rod Sarich could be forgiven for having plenty to keep himself busy.
But the 35-year-old defenceman couldn’t resist when Sheffield Steelers came to him with an SOS call to help see out the Elite League season with them.
And Sarich has got previous. After announcing his retirement on the back of last year’s league title success, he was back out on the ice relatively quickly to help out with the Steelers’ Champions Hockey League adventure at the at the start of the season.
It was the unexpected departure of Swedish defenceman Christoffer Bjorklund - hours before the trade deadline day - that prompted Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson to put the call into Sarich almost two weeks ago.
His role is to act as a spare import and provide injury cover during the title run-in and, when not pressed into service on the ice, he will help out behind the bench alongside Thompson and assistant coach Jerry Andersson.
It is a situation Sarich is comfortable with, having spent last weekend stood behind the players on the bench before being asked to lace up for Wednesday night’s 5-2 win over Edinburgh Capitals.
They’ve been playing pretty well in recent weeks and have stepped up the defensive side of things, they’ve had a couple of shutouts and not been conceding too many goals which is always going to produce the right results, especially at this time of the year.Sheffield Steelers’ defenceman, Rod Sarich
“I wasn’t expecting it, I was happily retired,” said Sarich. “But I think the circumstances dictated it more than anything - if they had had a week or so to search around for another import player then I think they would have gone that route.
“But the fact that they were left sort of at the buzzer trying to find someone with no time to look around for anybody else, I guess I fit the bill and I’m more than glad to be around. I only live down the road so it works.”
Sarich will have to wait and see if he is needed to skate against Nottingham Panthers as Thompson leaves it as late as possible before making decisions on the fitness of Mike Ratchuk and Andreas Valdix who were missing through injury against Edinburgh, as well as Colton Fretter, who left the game after just a few shifts.
Wednesday’s win combined with a 7-4 defeat at Nottingham for leaders Cardiff Devils saw second-placed Steelers reduce the deficit to six points with nine games remaining.
Two of those games are against Cardiff in Sheffield next month, while the top two both have to face third-placed Belfast Giants in the run-in, Cardiff twice.
“We just need to keep winning,” added Sarich. “From my own perspective, I’ve just missed the grind, as it were, and I come it at the fun bit so I can’t complain.
“But the room that I’ve come back to is pretty buoyant and confident. They’ve been playing pretty well in recent weeks and have stepped up the defensive side of things, they’ve had a couple of shutouts and not been conceding too many goals which is always going to produce the right results, especially at this time of the year.”
And, after not seeing any competitive action since September, Sarich was happy to report that the body held up fine in midweek.
“Everything felt natural, it hasn’t been that long since I’d done it,” he said. “In many ways it was harder missing a full year and then coming back.
“For me, the big thing is just the skating and the wear on the back and if I can get through the first two weeks of training or games then there’s generally no problem.
“It is just like the beginning of a new season and you don’t want to go too hard and injure yourself but so far, so good.”