Sheffield Steelers coach heads for Chicago Blackhawks

Sheffield Steelers boss Paul Thompson can console himself after the Play Off finals by looking forward to a fact-finding trip to Chicago Blackhawks.

Thompson’s Elite League winners failed to make the final post-season four, but he is already preparing for season 2016-17.

Included in his plans is a trip to meet former Manchester Storm and Bracknell Bees goalie Mark Bernard, who works for the NHL giants and oversees the day-to-day operations of their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.

“It is good to go over there and see what the best team in the world is doing” he said. The coach will be “scouting some players, meeting some American League coaches.” He said face to face “exit meetings” with Steelers personnel were being held this week and there had already been inquiries about new players. Agents had already been on the phone and “a lot of preparation has to go into next year. Organising training camp, going across to Zurich for the Champions League meeting, it doesn’t stop on the management side.”

Thompson says he has no interest in who wins this weekend’s Play Off finals in Nottingham.

Cardiff Devils, who Steelers beat into second place for the League title and who will have Swinton-born Ben Bowns in goal, play Coventry Blaze, who ended Sheffield’s interest in the end-of-season series, at 1pm on Saturday. Host team Nottingham Panthers play Fife Flyers at 5pm.

Fredrik Vestberg - Sheffield Steelers

Fredrik Vestberg - Sheffield Steelers

n Meanwhile Fredrick Vestberg was a double-winner in an awards night hosted by Steelers Supporters Club this week.

He was voted player of the year by both his team-mates and Thompson as their player of the year.

The coach said: “He hasn’t had a bad game for us, he never takes a night off.”

Vestberg has yet to sign a fresh deal for next year.

He said: “I had a fantastic year here with the Steelers. I had no idea what to expect when I signed and arrived here but it has been much better than I thought. My family and I have bought into being Steelers, we love it here.”

Home Player of the Year was Tyler Mosienko. Away Player of the Year was Levi Nelson.

* Coventry Blaze and former Sheffield forward Ashley Tait says Great Britain’s two games against Poland next month will be perfect preparation for the upcoming World Championship in Zagreb.

GB take on Poland at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham on Saturday 9th April (7pm) and then the two sides meet in the Skydome in Coventry the following day, Sunday 10th April (5:15pm).

The two games will come in the middle of a training camp for Pete Russell’s side before they fly out to Croatia for the Division 1B World Championship from 17th to 23rd April.

Tait said: “Poland are tough opposition and so they will be two games which will be excellent preparation for the World Championship.

“Every time we play Poland we have intense encounters and they will give us a really good test ahead of the trip to Zagreb.

“I like the look of our squad and there is tough competition for the final 23 places.

“The boys came so close to promotion last season in Netherlands and we all want to go one step better this season.

“It is another tough group in Croatia but we have showed we can compete with the best teams at this level.”

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