Depth of leadership key to silverware hopes of Sheffield Steelers

LEADER: New Sheffield Steelers' defenceman, Aaron Brocklehurst. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.
LEADER: New Sheffield Steelers' defenceman, Aaron Brocklehurst. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.
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GIVEN they are opening their 2019-20 season with a Challenge Cup double-header against Nottingham Panthers, Sheffield Steelers will need to call on many different qualities to help them prevail against their fiercest rivals this weekend.

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And Jonathan Phillips - named as the club’s captain for the sixth straight season and 12th overall last week - is confident that one of those most crucial qualities required, namely leadership, will not be in short supply.

In a move slightly away from the norm - at least in the UK - head coach and GM Aaron Fox named four alternate captains to serve under Phillips, two for home games and two for when the team hits the road.

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CAPTAIN MARVEL: Sheffield Steelers' Jonathan Phillips. Picture EIHL/Dean Woolley.

CAPTAIN MARVEL: Sheffield Steelers' Jonathan Phillips. Picture EIHL/Dean Woolley.

The two players assisting Phillips at Sheffield Arena will be fellow GB international forward Robert Dowd and Canadian defenceman, Aaron Brocklehurst, while import forwards John Armstrong and Brendan Connolly will take on the role for away games.

But Phillips believes choosing five leaders will have been a far from simple task for Fox, given the options at his disposal from a more experienced roster than last season.

“They can’t have been easy decisions to make,” said Phiillips. “You look at the experience in our room and how do you choose your leaders - including myself?

“We’re just the lucky ones who get to wear those shirts, but I feel we’re stacked with leaders in that room from top to bottom.”

BIG DECISIONS: Sheffield Steelers' head coach and GM, Aaron Fox.Picture: EIHL/Dean Woolley.

BIG DECISIONS: Sheffield Steelers' head coach and GM, Aaron Fox.Picture: EIHL/Dean Woolley.

As for himself, the role of Steelers’ captain is not one Cardiff-born Phillips takes lightly, with he and his family very much regarding Sheffield as home, the 37-year-old having first made the move from South Wales back in the summer of 2006.

“Every season, I feel very proud to captain this side,” added the former Cardiff Devils winger. “I don’t think you can even say this is my second home, this is our family’s home now. We’re settled, the kids are settled and we’re going to be up here for the rest of our lives.

“That’s what happens when you invest all your time into one club - you fall in love with the club, the area and you want it to do well so much.”

Having won all three of their pre-season exhibition games, two against Slovakian outfit HK Poprad and, last weekend, against Hungary’s MAC Ujbuda, the Steelers will enjoy home ice for their competitive opener against the Panthers on Saturday night (7pm).

The two meet the following day at the National Ice Centre (4pm) before Steelers open their Elite League regular season campaign at home to Coventry Blaze on Saturday, September 7 (7pm).