The GB international defenceman hasn’t played a competitive hockey match since helping the Elite League’s Sheffield Steelers end their 17-year wait to lift the Challenge Cup against Cardiff Devils in early March.
With the lockdown that ensued just a few days after because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the UK game has effectively been in limbo, the EIHL having already postponed their 2020-21 campaign due to the current Covid-19 social distancing rules making it impossible for fans to be allowed back into rinks.
O’Connor and the Steelers went their separate ways in the summer, the 31-year-old having spent six seasons in South Yorkshire.
There would have been no shortage of suitors for O’Connor had a regular 2020-21 EIHL campaign been possible and while a number of his former Steelers team-mates have headed to Europe to earn a living, he chose to remain at home, later agreeing a deal with NIHL National outfit Sheffield Steeldogs.
That decision sees him this week preparing for the ‘Streaming Series’ which over the next three weekends, will see the Steeldogs take on Milton Keynes Lightning and Swindon Wildcats behind-closed-doors, with all games being streamed on the internet for paying fans.
Chiefs boss Sam Zajac hopeful NIHL National ‘Streaming Series’ can help salvage 2020-21 season - read more HERE
The hope is the initiative will prove popular enough in terms of paying viewers that it will then be viable for all 10 NIHL National teams involved last season to compete at some point early next year in some kind of truncated league campaign subject, of course, to government approval.
“The more competitive we can make these games, the more people we will hopefully get watching, which is what it is all about,” said O’Connor.
“We want to be putting on some top quality hockey and keep fans watching over all three weekends.
“At the end of the day, there is no other hockey in the UK. It is a showcase and something that is going to be available for fans who have maybe not seen an NIHL game before.
“As players, we want as many people to watch because there is a lot riding on these games.
“We want to continue playing. We don’t just want to play this series and then stop again.”
Steeldogs coach Ben Morgan hoping all British hockey fans back NIHL National ‘Streaming Series’ - read more HERE
While O’Connor will be available for the Steeldogs should any kind of season follow on from the pilot series, he has been joined in Ben Morgan’s line-up on a temporary basis by some other, notable names.
It was announced on Monday that Hull Pirates’ player-coach Jason Hewitt will guest for the Steeldogs, while yesterday saw the addition of O’Connor’s GB team-mate Ben Lake and Pirates’ D-man Jonathan Kirk.
Milton Keynes and Swindon have also brought in reinforcements, including GB internationals, due to players on all three rosters not being available for the series.
It’s a development O’Connor believed will only widen the appeal of the pilot and, hopefully, boost viewing numbers.
“There is a lot of interest for EIHL fans as well as regular fans of the three teams and that has to be a good thing,” added O’Connor.
“The more support that we get then the more likely there is to be a chance for us to play even more hockey down the line.”
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