Jason Hewitt happy to embrace the challenge his return to Sheffield Steelers for EIHL Series offers

UNTIL a few days ago, Jason Hewitt never imagined he would pull on a Sheffield Steelers’ jersey again – but when the challenge presented itself, he just couldn’t resist.

BACK WITH A BANG: Jason Hewitt lays on a hit during Sheffield Steeldogs' Streaming Series clash with Swindon Wildcat last year. Picture courtesy of Cerys Molloy.

Hewitt was one of seven picks made by Steelers’ head coach Aaron Fox during Monday night’s Draft of British players for next month’s Elite Series.

The Steelers will join Nottingham Panthers, Coventry Blaze and Manchester Storm to contest the behind-closed-doors event at the National Ice Centre and, five years after walking out of Sheffield Arena, Hewitt is set to be there with them once again.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Hewitt was one of 70 British players registered to take part in the Draft and, while there was a chance he could have ended up at another club, he admits to being relieved at being given the chance to go ‘home’.

And the Steelers is ‘home’ because, second in the all-time list of appearances for the club at 682, Hewitt scored 104 goals and 174 assists between 2006-1016, helping the club lift three playoff trophies and four regular season league championships.

Only two players remain on the Steelers’ roster since Hewitt left as a league champion under then head coach Paul Thompson – Robert Dowd and Jonathan Phillips,

“It’s almost five years to the day since I left, but it’s a great feeling knowing I’ll be pulling on that jersey again,” said Hewitt.

“It wouldn’t have felt right going anywhere else, so I’m very glad it happened the way it did in the draft. I’ve got a lot of great memories from my time there.

Jason Hewitt is second in the Sheffield Steelers' all-time list for appearances. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

“One of the biggest reasons for entering the draft was the challenge – and that won’t just be in games, that will be at practice, working with a new coach – the Steelers is obviously a different place now to how it was when I left. It’s something I’m a bit nervy about it, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Hewitt, currently excelling for Sheffield Steeldogs in the Spring Cup, insisted he was grateful to his employers Bauer – who provide hockey equipment – for them enabling him to play.

He also goes with the Steeldogs’ blessing and it remains to be seen whether Greg Wood’s team will be involved in any further action once the Spring Cup ends. A short NIHL National league season has been mooted.

“Like every business we’ve suffered, so I had to do right by them originally when I left the Steelers, it was to start a career with Bauer,” added Hewitt. “But they have been great with me as have the Steeldogs and I’m grateful to them both.”

Jason Hewitt has enjoyed success as player-coach of Hull Pirates since leaving the Steelers in 2016. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Since leaving the Steelers, Hewitt has excelled at the level below with Hull Pirates, where he eventually became player-coach and led them to a memorable treble in 2018-19.

Last season’s inaugural NIHL National campaign seemingly bringing out the best of him, as he finished top scorer overall with 101 points in 43 games, including 44 goals, before the Covid-19 pandemic brought curtain down early on proceedings.

With the prospect of no hockey at all this season and Hull not in a position to ice a team, Hewitt agreed to play for Yorkshire rivals the Steeldogs when they were revealed as being one of three teams to take part the behind-closed-doors Streaming Series, where all games were streamed online for paying fans.

With the Elite League cancelled for 2020-21 through being unable to play behind-closed-doors without financial assistance from the authorities, Hewitt found himself alongside and against top-flight players once again, with the likes of Ben O’Connor and Ben Lake also joining the Steeldogs’ ranks.

TOGETHER AGAIN: Jason Hewitt will line up alongside best friend and Steelers- team-mate Jonathan Phillips, left, once again in next month's Elite Series. Picture: Dean Woolley.

That situation has been enhanced even further for the Spring Cup with GB captain Phillips also signing up to play for the Steeldogs, along with Steelers’ defenceman Davey Phillips and 2018 NHL Draft pick, Liam Kirk.

When news of the Brit-Draft surfaced, Hewitt wasn’t sure what to do for the best, but once he’d spoken to his employers, the Steeldogs management and his good friend Jon Phillips, he knew he had to stick his name forward.

“I’ve loved all these Streaming Series and Spring Cup games and the quality players that we’ve been able to play with and against, so this was about taking it to another level,” said Hewitt.

“Jonno was one of the people I was leaning on a bit in terms of what to do, I was asking him what he would do, we talked about the pros and cons and I’d say right up until we got off the bus on Sunday night coming back from Bracknell I was still in two minds.

“But after speaking to everybody, including work and the Steeldogs, it helped convince me that it was the right decision to give it a go and try and be a part of it.”

And after naming Hewitt as his fourth pick in the Draft - 21st overall - Steelers’ head coach Fox is looking forward to working with the 37-year-old.

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

“Hewey seemed excited about it,” said Fox. “I talked to Jonno about it and Hewey only had interest in playing if we drafted him. He dominated that NIHL National league last season in terms of scoring. This is a five-week series, it’s going to be fun and he’s going to be a great vocal leader in the dressing room - it’s a great addition to our group.”

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.