Memories return as Steelers celebrate great times

MORE than 4,000 Sheffield Steelers fans turned out to pay tribute to some of their favourite former players, who returned to the ice one last time to help the club celebrate its 20th birthday at the Festival of Hockey this weekend.

Alex Dampier, the coach who delivered a triple crown grand slam in 1996, returned to the city he spent six years in to coach some of his former charges and a host of other former players against a team of Cardiff Devils legends.

Tim Cranston, Ron Shudra, Tommy Plommer, Mike O’Connor, Dennis Vial, Chris Kelland and Mike Blaisdell – who coached the Steelers to another grand slam in 2001 – were among those returning, to the delight of an warm and appreciative crowd at Sheffield Arena.

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The most emotional moment of the festival came when the No 11 jersey of former forward Plommer was ‘retired’ to the Arena rafters – 11 years after he left the club.

The Steelers’ legends comfortably won their encounter 7-3, as did player-coach Ryan Finnerty’s current roster when they got their first outing of the pre-season against their Cardiff counterparts, running out 3-2 winners thanks to goals from Tom Squires, new forward Colt King and Rod Sarich.

Last night’s return match in Cardiff for the current line-up ended in a 2-2 stalemate, with Ashley Tait’s powerplay strike being followed by a first in Steelers colours for newcomer Mike Ramsay to seal an impressive comeback by the visitors.

HULL STINGRAYS got their pre-season preparations underway with two games against close rivals Coventry Blaze.

Goals from 2010-11 top scorer Jereme Tendler, Frantisek Bakrlik (2), Dominic Osman and Jason Silverthorn gave the Stingrays a 5-2 win in Hull on Saturday.

Last night’s return match in Coventry saw Hull captain Josh Mizerek and player-coach Sylvain Cloutier on target before the hosts rallied to level through Shea Guthrie and Luke Fulghum.