Why Brendan Connolly’s return to Sheffield Steelers for 2021-22 Elite League season was a no-brainer

AS far as both coach and player are concerned, it is a “no-brainer”.

When forward Brendan Connolly and Sheffield Steelers’ boss Aaron Fox sit down to discuss things, there probably isn’t much they disagree on.

Connolly has now agreed to terms with the Steelers for a fourth time although, effectively, when he steps out on the ice with them in September, it will be to embark on just his second full season at the club.

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TOP MAN: Brendan Connolly is back at Sheffield Steelers for the 2021-22 Elite League season. Picture courtesy of Karl Denham/EIHL.

The 35-year-old Great Britain international proved highly effective during his first stint at the club during the 2019-20 Challenge Cup-winning campaign, top-scoring for Aaron Fox’s team with 28 goals and 35 assists in 61 games.

It’s why Steelers’ head coach Fox made him one of the first signings for the 2020-21 Elite League season that never was because of the pandemic and why he was so keen to bring him on board for the five-week behind-closed-doors Elite Series earlier this year.

Again, Connolly proved his value to the Steelers, finishing that tournament with 17 points, including six goals, before going on to shine for GB at the World Championship in Latvia.

And with Connolly’s return for the 2021-22 season assured, there aren’t many fans who will disagree with the thinking behind the decision.

Brendan Connolly, in action for GB against Switzerland at the recent IIHF World Championship in Riga. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

“With Sheffield, I have nothing but good experiences, good times and good things to say about organisation, Foxy and the ownership,” said Connolly.

“When they reached out and said we’d love to have you back, for me it was a no-brainer. for me, the core group we have there is excellent - obviously Foxy makes it a fun atmosphere and he puts a competitive team out on the ice.

NO-BRAINER: Sheffield Steelers head coach Aaron Fox, pictured during his team's brief Elite Series training camp Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

“Sheffield has it all, really and the opportunity to compete for trophies every single season is something that excites me.

“It was great to win the Challenge Cup in my first season there, but the regular season league title is the one we all want. We were close last time out, but we probably just didn’t quite have enough and Cardiff would most likely have ended up taking that one.

“But we were there pretty much for the whole season and just being in that situation where you’re competing in every single game, with a trophy on the line, it is a really good place to be.”

As for Fox, he again has made Connolly one of the first pieces of the jigsaw he is putting together for September onwards, and with good reason.

Brendan Connolly is back with Sheffield Steelers for the 2021-22 Elite League season. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“Conns is definitely a core piece for us who plays the game on the edge every night and absolutely hates to lose,” said Fox. “For those reasons alone, bringing him back was an absolute no brainer for me

“He brings leadership and accountability to our room and is someone I will rely on heavily to play in all situations.”