Greg Wood and Sheffield Steeldogs keen to get back to work for 2021-22 NIHl National campaign

IT’s fair to say that Greg Wood’s return to life behind the bench with Sheffield Steeldogs could not have gone any better.

Greg Wood - Sheffield Steeldogs head coach (left) - and former player-coach and defenceman Ben Morgan. Picture courtesy of Peter Best.

Having ended his self-imposed exile by returning to the club he served so well as player to be Ben Morgan’s assistant midway through the 2019-20 season, he went on to take over as head coach after helping the Steeldogs finish top in last year’s three-team Streaming Series.

The Spring Cup that followed earlier this year was pretty much a procession for the South Yorkshire club who, under the guidance of Wood, recorded a 100 per cent record on their way to a convincing triumph.

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It is therefore no surprise that, as a result of that success, Wood is returning behind the bench for the 2021-22 NIHL National season.

MAIN MAN: Sheffield Steeldogs' head coach Greg Wood. Picture courtesy of Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

He will oversee a team that looks very different to the one he assembled for the Spring Cup, with the likes of Jonathan Phillips, David Phillips and Ben Lake having returned to the Elite League rosters that they came from, while Liam Kirk - back with the club where his senior career began under Wood in 2016 - has gone on to earn himself a three-year NHL entry-level contract with the Arizona Coyotes.

But regardless of who is added to his roster in the coming weeks before the second-tier’s expected early September start, there’s no doubt Wood is desperate to get to back on the ice to begin preparations.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to the rink again,” said Wood, who was previously player-coach at the club from 2015-2017 before the EPL’s demise. “Some people might feel pressure but the only person who puts pressure on me in the coaching role is myself.

“After the success of the Spring Cup and the way we played, it will be tough to replicate that but we will be a better team for that experience.

Sheffield Steeldogs' celebrate a godl during the Streaming Series. Picture courtesy of Cerys Molloy.

“Other teams’ rosters are showing depth and quality as they build for the new season, it’s looking very good and it will be a quality product on the ice for everyone to see and we will be putting out a very competitive roster ourselves.

“It was brilliant being head coach for the Spring Cup and being able to keep a core group of players from that to move on with. We had a great chemistry as a team and it grew and grew with every game we played.”

Wood said that while he and his players had enjoyed the chance to play competitively during the two behind-closed-doors tournaments, the hoped-for return of fans for the 2021-22 season would be very welcome.

“While we knew we had the crowd at home watching online, sometimes you just need the buzz of the crowd to get you over the line and it will be so good to have them back,” added Wood.

Roger Williams said he and fellow co-owner Ali Cree were delighted to have secured Wood’s return behind the bench for the forthcoming campaign.

“In his assistant coach role through the Streaming Series, Greg’s level of effort and attention to detail was impressive,” said Williams. “That only increased when he took charge for the Spring Cup. He put in the time with the team but also through the week so that for each of those games, the players were absolutely ready for every challenge.

“He has clearly rediscovered his love for the game and we are chuffed to have him back – he shares our values and visions for the club.”