ROD SARICH can clearly remember the first time he came together with Jonathan Phillips out on the ice – and it wasn’t necessarily a pleasurable experience.
Still, that initial frosty encounter when Sarich was in his first season with Sheffield Steelers and Phillips in his last with Cardiff Devils was soon to become a lot warmer when the two became team-mates in South Yorkshire the following year.
The pair would go on to play alongside each other – bar the 2013-14 campaign – for the next nine and a half seasons, winning four Elite League regular season titles and three play-off trophies together.
Tonight’s visit to the FlyDSA Arena by Coventry Blaze sees Steelers’ captain Phillips achieve the latest landmark moment in a career already laden with achievements when he plays his 1,000th EIHL game.
Tributes and praise for Phillips have been posted throughout the week and club plan to celebrate the occasion with a special pre-match presentation.
Having retired two years ago, Sarich will not be out there on the ice with his good friend, but sees no reason for the 37-year-old GB international to slow down.
“My first introduction to him was when we played Cardiff in my first season over here,” said Sarich. “I was chasing him around the ice and then he cross-checked me from behind in front of the net and I was like ‘Who is this guy?’
“So I got a little angry and was chasing him a bit, but then the next season he joined us and we were able to have a good laugh about it.
“He’s not slowed down an inch. He’s so dedicated and as you get older you put more work into it because you need to and you might be better off that way as you eat better and sleep better than maybe earlier in your career.
“It’s such a special achievement for him, not just playing that many games, but sticking with the same team, being captain.
It’s such a special achievement for him, not just playing that many games, but sticking with the same team, being captain.Rod Sarich on former Sheffield Steelers’ team-mate, Jonathan Phillips.
“Reaching 1,000 Elite League games is testament to his ability on the ice, he’s always been a smart player, knows how to play and the sort of guy who plays defensively, responsibly and blocking shots – yet he has still racked the games up over the years.
“He has been at the centre of everything for such a long time, been a great leader on and off the ice and is just one of those guys who what you see is what you get – what you get has always been pretty good.”
Steelers head into tonight looking to cement their place at the top of the standings by registering their fifth straight win.
Aaron Fox’s team, who earlier this week jettisoned goaltender Pavel Kantor, will head to Scotland once again tomorrow for a third meeting in 16 days with Fife Flyers.