Defenceman Sam Jones explains why switch from Fife Flyers to Elite League rivals Sheffield Steelers was the right one for him

WHEN the chance to make the switch to Sheffield Steelers presented itself, there was no hesitation for defenceman Sam Jones.

INCOMING: Sam Jones, pictured in action for Fife Flyers last season, will join Sheffield Steelers on a two-yar deal later this year. Picture courtesy of Jillian McFarlane/Flyers Images

The 22-year-old stood out as the one new arrival announced by the Steelers on a hectic Thursday of signing news for the club which saw a total of 12 players confirmed on their roster for 2020-21.

Jones arrives having spent the previous season impressing for Elite League rivals Fife Flyers.

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Steelers’ head coach Aaron Fox is confident the 6ft 2ins blue liner can continue his progression in South Yorkshire, believing him to have a “high ceiling” and Jones is determined to prove his new boss right.

“When it came up I just felt like it was the right fit,” said Jones from his home in Canmore, Canada. “Aaron and me clicked and hit it off and everything fell into place really fast.

“It was a move that I wanted to make. I wanted to play on a bigger team, you want to play on the best teams and you want to prove yourself on those teams.”

Born in Walsall, Jones’s family moved to Canmore, Alberta, when he was eight, but it was in Penticton in neighbouring British Columbia where he really cut his hockey teeth when attending the Okanagan Hockey Academy.

A couple of seasons of junior hockey followed before he made his senior bow by returning to the UK in the summer of 2016 to play in the now-defunct English Premier League with Milton Keynes Lightning.

While the Lightning made the move up to the Elite League the following summer, Jones headed back to British Columbia for another season of junior hockey before returning to the UK for a second time to join Swindon Wildcats.

Although the NIHL One level was not the same as the EPL, Jones was still able to impress enough to get a chance to move up to the ElHL with Fife, where he made such a big impression on Steelers’ boss Fox.

“I went there and all I wanted was an opportunity to prove myself,” added Jones. “I think I did pretty well and slowly adjusted to it as the season went on, obviously injury set me back a bit, but I really enjoyed my time in Fife.

Sheffield Steelers' head coach and GM, Aaron Fox. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

“I got given a shot which is all I asked for from Tood (Dutiaume) and Jeff (Hutchins) at the start of the year. That is what happened and I can’t thank them enough.”

Despite his first year in the UK’s top flight being hampered by an injury which ruled him out for three months, Jones stood out in a Flyers team that was bottom of the regular season standings when the campaign was abruptly halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

But, whenever the 2020-21 season is able to get underway, Jones is confident he will be part of a team challenging at the opposite end of the table.

“When I saw on Thursday who was signing back, I was pretty surprised that Aaron was getting all of those guys back to be honest,” said Jones.

AMBITIOUS: Sam Jones, left, wants to push huis claims for GB call-up while at Sheffield Steelers. Picture courtesy of Jillian McFarlane/Flyers Images

“It’s obviously an extremely good core group and when those guys were on last year - it happened to us a couple of times in Fife - you can’t stop them from scoring. It’s just one of those things, they get rolling and one goes in after another.

“So I want to come in and be able to make an impact. I want to play plenty of minutes but I want to earn my spot in the line up and be there as somebody who can actually play and isn’t just there to fill space on the bench or the roster.

“It looks like it is going to be a pretty good team again, very similar team to last year too, so it really looks like we’ll be in with a shot of some silverware again. That was another big reason for the move, wanting to be on a team challenging for titles.”