Steelers may have signed a top American League defence-man and a Swedish ‘stud’ this week, but there is only one place to start this column and that is with Guillaume Desbiens’ decision to retire from ice hockey.
To say that everyone at the club was gutted would be an understatement. From ownership to the car park attendant everyone loved Desy. Especially his fellow team mates inside the holy grail that is the dressing room.
I am struggling to think of a more respected player in the club’s 26 season history.
A word that is used a lot in hockey circles is “proper”. The amount of times Paul Thompson has said to me after a training session, a game or a team meeting “That Desy is ‘proper’ you know. A real leader of men.
Here is the curious thing about the French Canadian leaving. Normally if a player gets up and walks, leaves you, especially after just signing a 2 year contract extension you are furious. In Desy’s case everyone at the club accepted it. Because of the respect Paul, Jerry, Tony and all of us have for Desbiens we accepted it. We all know what a tough decision it was for him.
If this was the best move for him and his family who were we to stand in his way? It was weird, you wanted to be angry and scream down the phone “But Desy: the contract” yet there we were saying “OK – yes, all the very best, if there is anything we can ever do...”
I can’t think of too many players that reaction would have happened for. The problem with the modern, liberal world we all live in these days is that they don’t make them like him any more. Those guys, those people who lead and take initiative don’t seem to be popping up much any more.
We should just be pleased he did us the favour of stopping off in Sheffield and letting us see what top professionals are like.
Desy certainly left us with a leaving card. That night against Nottingham in the play off quarter final. Killing penalties, blocking shots and then scoring “that goal” the overtime winner – one of the best moments in our history.
A week later the game winner in the play off semi final against Belfast. 24 hours later his line dominated the play off final. His line scored big goals and there was no bigger smile than the one on Desbiens face as the trophy was lifted.
Steelers have lost great players before though and we will do so again this year and every year – we move on.
The summer off? Don’t be daft this is Paul Thompson’s busiest time of the year.
Two new players to get excited about joining us this week. Mark Matheson, a big solid D-man who played in France for the last two seasons and Jonas Westerling a skilled Swedish forward.
I see us with a bigger back end than last season, Matheson is the start of that. Westerling brings options, a centre or wing. Paul Thompson’s Swedish contacts certainly gave rave reviews on this chap with the recommendation of “sign him” coming back from all his referrals.
Thompson is close to another signing. Paul’s talked about this guy for months. The persuasion as you try and attract a talent who has never thought about England before. It’s draining but then when you make your team better by bringing “that special guy” in it’s all worthwhile.
If Paul does land this next chap then the additions of Matheson, Westerling and him will mean that the Steelers are getting better and even more serious of wrenching that championship away from Cardiff.