Darrell Hay says working for Sheffield Steelers is the British equivalent of being with the New York Yankees or the Montreal Canadiens.
The 35-year-old Canadian has loved his first season as an assistant coach, learning a huge amount from his boss, Paul Thompson.
And now he hopes the duo can lead the side to a successful defence of the League title.
“Every day is a learning experience, I am excited to come to work” said Hay, whose father Don is much-respected coach at Kamloops Blazers in the WHL.
“Paul has a thirst for knowledge as well. He wants to compete. He is here to win championships, he is the ‘winningest’ coach ever in this level, and he wants to show every night why he is that. He leads by example and is a great guy to follow.
“I’ve really enjoyed myself this year, Paul has taught me a lot and I hope I can continue to work in this game as a coach.”
Hay says he would love to continue his work at the Arena for season 2016-17. “I’d love to be back, if they would have me back. I am very proud to represent Sheffield and be a Steeler and wear the orange.
“Any time you can play for a top team in a top country it is something very special.
“I’d consider it like playing for the New York Yankees and the Montreal Canadiens.”
Hay believes three straight wins has brought “a little bit of a swagger back.”
“I think it speaks volumes when we have a full group. We have four sets of wingers, Thommo can roll our three centremen. It gets us a lot of depth like we were in the Champions League. That is when we were playing our best hockey and we are getting back to that. We just have to find a way to keep going here. Everybody has to go through injuries, playing a lot of games, we have had a group all year long that has worked at it.
“They have done what they have been asked, bought in to what we have tried to preach here. That’s why we are competing for a title.”
Hay says Steelers league winning team of 2014-5 relied hugely on the likes of Michael Forney and Mathieu Roy. Now there are “different heroes every night.
“Forney and Roy led that group; we have been more of a committee-like team this year in the way we have done things. We don’t have a lot of the flash that other teams do, but we work consistently and keep battling, whether it is practice whether its games. They want to compete, they push each other.”
He said club veterans like Jonathan Phillips, Jason Hewitt Jeff Legue are the “people who keep the dressing room going.”
“Bringing Fitzy (Zack Fitzgerald) in was a great decision, he brings a different voice and a leadership style all of his own and I think Marek (Pinc) comes in and shows he is a Czech national goalie. We just have to keep going and worry about ourselves and get a little help from Belfast Giants.”