Let’s put behind us the midweek difficulties that the Challenge Cup semi final presented,
I would still mount the case that South Yorkshire people take Sheffield Steelers for granted. Yes, you do.
Year in, year out, Steelers deliver for you. That could be by winning a league title, a play-off championship or simply by laying it on the line, week in and week out.
For the last 25 years the Steelers, through ups and downs, have bought the bacon home to this city. League titles, play off championships, Challenge/B&H Cups, two Grand Slams, numerous trips to Europe. Great Britain international players, NHL players - you’ve had them all.
That’s just on the ice. What about off it? Hundreds of thousands of you entertained; an event the whole family - kids, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents - can enjoy together. The young, the old, the abled, the infirm.
For the sports fan, or the non-sports fan who enjoys the atmosphere, the Steelers have been the team, the club that have unified a city and bought it together. The Steelers are Sheffield’s club - whether they lose to Nottingham Panthers or not.
“Wow, David, where has this come from?” I hear you ask. I will tell you where: “I’m jealous”
Yes, I might be an adopted Sheffield man, but I’m from Birmingham, the land of Aston Villa, Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion etc. We have a slightly useless basketball team, no hockey club, Moseley Rugby play in about the 11th division and Warwickshire County Cricket Club. I put their name in Wikipedia and read back to 2007 before losing the will to live. No success there either.
At Cardiff on Sunday a beat up Steelers side, suffering from illness and injury, had just committed to one of the finest performances I had seen in the history of the club. They’d beaten Devils 5-4 to keep themselves in contention for a crack at another league title. Inside the dressing room there was silence as these warriors were being patched up by the medical staff.
This Steelers side shouldn’t be in the title race. It’s only through persistence, focus, desire, from all the coaches, players and ownership that we are here.
Injuries, illness, unfortunate circumstances have all come at the wrong time to the wrong people.
That showed up in the horrible home defeat by Panthers on Tuesday.
Yet despite all of the problems, here we have Steelers again fighting for another crack at the main silverware.
Think Manchester United at their peak. We haven’t lost Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Raimond van der Gouw - the Steelers this year lost Peter Schmeichel, Ryan Giggs and Ronaldo – in Plante, Dowd and Colton Fretter. Then take out Rooney (Desbiens) for a month – how would have the great United team have done then?
Steelers have done it by Sir Alex Ferguson (Paul Thompson) finding a way. Through guts and character.
The ever reliable captain Roy Keane (Jonathan Phillips) led by example as he has every time he pulled on the Steelers uniform.
Without Dowd veteran forward Jason Hewitt stepped up, scored big goals, logged big minutes and killed big penalties.
The Challenge Cup has gone. But the league title is still up for grabs.
And that is an astonishing success in itself, given the circumstances. You should be proud of them.