Patrick Watling determined to get Sheffield Steelers 'over the line' to Elite League crown
it is now seven years since the Steelers last lifted the regular season crown, under the leadership of then head coach Paul Thompson, the closest they have come since being when finishing runners-up in 2020 and 2022.
Head coach Aaron Fox delivered a Challenge Cup in his first season – one shortened by the pandemic – but there has been nothing since, with the pressure on to deliver the prize all Steelers’ fans crave so much.
Watling, who comes to the UK on the back of a solid season in Slovakia where he split his first campaign in Europe between HC Kosice and HC Banska Bystrica, believes he can help end the Steelers’ pain.
"I joined the club for many reasons,” said the 29-year-old. “Firstly I want to come here and help the team win.
"I had some great conversations with the coach and we both explained ourselves very well to each other – I think I can help get the Steelers over the line.
“We spoke about systems and how that game is played, winning is not a one man show and we must all play as a team and all bring something different if we are to achieve those goals.
“I took a lot of references including chatting with Matt Petgrave about the club, the organisation and the city, I liked what I heard about the whole package, everything seemed to fit and fall into place.”
One thing that fell into place and made the deal for the left-handed Watling possible was the educational opportunity offered by Sheffield Hallam University where he will complete his studies for an MBA.
Fox said the degree package – the first of its kind between the organisation and the University – was a key factor for Watling, who has more than 220 East Coast games behind him, as well as 34 appearances in the American League.
"Patrick is coming to us in conjunction with an education package from Sheffield Hallam University,” said Fox. “That was a huge selling point for him and this deal does not get done without Hallam being involved.
“We are very excited to open up a new long-term partnership with them that will allow us to use the one and two-year Masters options to help us recruit these types of players.”
In terms of what he expects from Watling, Fox believes he is getting a ‘top-end’ player.
Watling makes the switch to South Yorkshire on the back of an impressive first season of European hockey in Slovakia’s top tier, posting 32 points in 41 games for the two teams he represented.
That came on the back of a career year for Wheeling Nailers in the East Coast, where he recorded 85 points in 66 league and play-off games, 32 of them goals.
“Patrick is a very dynamic forward who can play both centre and wing,” added Fox. "He plays a complete 200-foot game and will play in all situations for us next season.
“He is a very gifted skater and is very explosive in tight areas and I believe his speed will cause problems at our level.
“He was close to a point per game in Slovakia last year in his first European experience and had 77 points in 55 games in his last season in North America in the ECHL with a couple of AHL call-ups.
“Patrick will be a top-end guy who I feel will run big numbers for us.”