Simon off the ice as Rockford come calling

FORMER Sheffield Steelers player-coach Ben Simon has finally laid down his roots for next season after being appointed as assistant coach by the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

The move sees the 33-year-old centre come full circle as Rockford are the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, the NHL team that first drafted Simon back in 1997 as the 110th overall pick.

Simon will always be regarded as a hero by many current Steelers’ fans after he arrived last August to take on his first-ever coaching role at a club that had suffered another summer of turmoil after it had gone bust earlier in the summer, swiftly followed by a management walkout.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Inheriting a squad largely signed by former coach Dave Matsos, Simon added former NHL-er Rob Globke and and produced a team that played entertaining hockey all the way until the middle of March when they clinched their third Elite League regular season title on the final day of the season.

It was hoped Simon would stick around to build on his excellent first season’s work but, after a disagreement over finances with new owner Paul Ragan - who had bought the club from the Phillips family shortly before Christmas - it was announced that he would be returning to North America.

Shortly before leaving Simon - who posted 29 goals and 39 assists in 65 league and play-off games for the Steelers – said he would be keeping his options open regarding whether he would continue playing in some capacity or switch to the bench full-time.

Tuesday’s appointment by the IceHogs indicates Simon feels his playing days are probably behind him after deciding to work under current head coach Ted Dent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The IceHogs – for who defenceman David Phillips made history with in 2009-10 when he became the first British-reared player to play in North America’s second tier – can only improve on last season’s showing, after finishing bottom of the West Division in the Western Conference. They were two places below the Chicago Wolves, with who Simon won the Calder Cup with in 2002.

THE Steelers will open their 2011-12 Elite League campaign on the road with a trip to Belfast Giants on Saturday, September 3, the club confirmed on Tuesday night.

Their first home game will be the following weekend, on August 10, when they welcome the Dundee Stars to the Motorpoint Arena.

A trip to Yorkshire rivals the Hull Stingrays comes 24 hours later before a double-header against the Cardiff Devils – the first an away tie in the Challenge Cup – the following weekend.

Coventry Blaze are then due in South Yorkshire on Saturday, September 24.

Related topics: