FIERCE rivals on the ice they may well be, but Sheffield Steelers and Manchester Storm will stand together ahead of tonight’s Challenge Cup encounter on what will prove an emotional evening in South Yorkshire.
Players and fans alike will pay their respects to mark the tragic death of Vicki Thomas, wife of former Steelers’ defenceman Mark Thomas.
The mother-of-two lost her battle against breast cancer earlier this week and the Steelers – for who her husband made 615 appearances between 2006 and 2016 – will stage a special tribute before face-off.
Thomas and the couple’s two sons, Bailey and Harley, will be in attendance along with other members of their family as both clubs pay their respects.
Fans will be asked to make 44 seconds of noise in memory of Vicki, the number’s significance being that which her husband wore during his time at the club
The Steelers players will wear special “Pink – Hockey Beats Cancer” warm up shirts with the initials ‘VT’ on the front and ‘THOMAS #44’ on the back.
The shirts will then be raffled off and the proceeds donated to Mark and his family.
Steelers’ captain Jonathan Phillips, who joined the club just a few months after Thomas, admitted it had been a tough week for all those close to the Thomas family.
He said it was fitting that it was Manchester were tonight’s opponents, given that his close friend’s involvement in the Storm’s junior set-up, for which the couple’s two sons play.
“It has been a really tough week,” said Phillips.
“We always say that we grew up together – we obviously weren’t teenagers when we first met – but we were in our early 20s when we came to the Steelers. We went through adulthood together really and that thing we had when we all first joined the Steelers was a special thing.
“We all kind of got married around the same time, all of our kids are similar ages and we went through life together as couples and families. It’s nice that Tommo, Bailey and Harley are going to be there to see how much everybody is thinking of them.”
After tonight, the Steelers head north tomorrow for their first trip of the league campaign against Dundee Stars.