Old, experienced heads - but athletic bodies - will be cornerstone of Sheffield Steelers' team next season

Young and, er, old: Liam Kirk with Colton Fretter. Pic by Dean Woolley
Young and, er, old: Liam Kirk with Colton Fretter. Pic by Dean Woolley

There is no substitute for experience - and Sheffield Steelers will have bags of it next year.

The club lost years of practical know-how when the likes of Anders Franzon, Rod Sarich, Guillaume Desbiens, Mike Ratchuk and Geoff Walker moved on at the end of last season.
But coach Paul Thompson's recent signings show an eye for other veterans who have seen it all before.

He is looking at signing a d-man who is close to his mid 30s.
Swedish centreman Jonas Westerling is the oldest new recruit so far at 35 - twice the age of new team-mate Liam Kirk - and the same age as returning Steelers Colton Fretter and (in July) Jonathan Phillips.
New defenceman Mark Matheson is 33 and first year forward Tim Wallace will reach that age in August.
And the latest signing Matt Marquardt will be 30 in July.
With Davey Phillips turning 30 in August, (and other than 'apprentices' Kirk and Cole Shudra) that currently leaves only four skaters under 30: Robert Dowd, Levi Nelson, John Armstrong and Ben O'Connor.
Sheffield defenceman Zack Fitzgerald, who is 32 on June 16, said: "The key word here is experience.
"These guys are highly qualified after playing at top levels of hockey around the world" said the American.
"With the new standards of training and nutrition, players can last longer now than years ago.
“Everybody wants to play for as long as they can, but personally I feel good and I’m sure the new guys will arrive in good shape.
"I am looking forward to seeing what our new team looks like."
Steelers currently have two other players over 30 on their books, goalscorer Mathieu Roy and goal-stopper Ervins Mustukovs.
Latvian athlete Mustukovs is in frightening physical shape.
He has recently tweeted a video of himself seemingly torturing himself hopping, leaping and running repeatedly up a flight of 50 stairs in an outdoor stadium in his home land.
"Moose" also juggles and can sustain the splits on chairs...eye-watering to witness and an illustration how the game has moved on since Steelers first took to the ice 26 years
ago.
*Teams in Denmark and France are keeping an eye on 27-year-old Steeler Jace Coyle’s availability. Sheffield are surveying alternatives ahead of making any potential offer of re-employment, which has opened the door to other suitors in the Elite League, as well as abroad.

Steelers have two d-men and two attackers left to sign - not bad going at this stage of the close-season.

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That's a stretch: Ervins Mustukovs

That's a stretch: Ervins Mustukovs

Tim Wallace

Tim Wallace

Jonas Westerling

Jonas Westerling