O’Connor happy to stay ‘home’ for the long haul with Steelers

WHAT started out as a mutually-beneficial ‘fling’ between Ben O’Connor and Sheffield Steelers has become a solid, long-term relationship after the talented defenceman signed a three-year deal with the club.

STAYING: Ben O'Connor will be a Sheffield Steelers player for the next three seasons. Picture: Dean Woolley.
STAYING: Ben O'Connor will be a Sheffield Steelers player for the next three seasons. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Unexpectedly jettisoned two weeks ago by Arlan Kokshetau, the club in Kazakhstan he has played for over the last two years, O’Connor came in on a temporary deal to play for the Steelers’ the club his father Mike played for with such distinction in the mid-90s towards the end of his career.

The expectation was for O’Connor junior to be snapped by one of a number of Russian clubs believed to be interested in taking him on. But, after just four games in a Steelers shirt, the 25-year-old GB international decided his future lies in South Yorkshire.

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The former Edinburgh Capitals and Coventry Blaze defenceman admits his decision was made a lot easier thanks to the welcoming locker room he had walked into less than two weeks ago.

“There is an unbelievable atmosphere in that room,” said O’Connor, already racking up seven points from his four appearances. “In fact, I’d go as far as saying this is the best dressing room I have been in. The guys get on so well off the ice that, it makes things easier on the ice.

“As soon as I walked into the dressing room of the club I supported as a kid – the same team that my Dad played for – I realised that I’d like to make this move more than a weekend, I want to be a Steeler. I always have.”

“I know this wasn’t an easy move for the club, there budgets were set and spent and then all of a sudden I came into the mix. The Steelers are my team though, my home club and I want to play a part in winning things here.”

Head coach Gerad Adams, already managing a roster brimming with talent that has gone 9-1 in the regular season league programme, was understandably delighted after being given the go ahead by owner Tony Smith to add O’Connor to his squad.

“I’m very lucky to have a great player wanting to play here and an owner who worked around the clock trying to make this deal happen,” said Adams.

“It’s a fantastic signing for us on many levels. Firstly we are a better side with Ben in it – better and deeper.

“Ben helps us in lots of areas on the ice. I think the fans have already seen and bought into all the good things he does. He is composed and skilful, he sees the ice so well and can make great plays.”

Owner Smith added: “Making this deal happen at this time of the year has been hard, but Ben showed his commitment to us by taking a salary drop from what he could earn in Russia.

“We did everything we could to present him with a deal that makes it possible for him to put down roots once again in Sheffield.”