Dave Simms column: Hockey now a 52 week a year business for Sheffield

Paul Thompson - will be making friends in Chicago
Paul Thompson - will be making friends in Chicago

I am old enough to remember when you had a summer in the hockey season.

The year would end and, for the next two weeks, you would be busy flying the guys out, making sure the rented houses were all well looked-after so we could have our deposits back. Along the way, you would sign a couple of guys.

The coach would fly back home to Canada and open up his house for the summer. We would take a few weeks before calling him and then the slow drip feed of signings would follow.

We would all be “doing a bit” but the workload was 10 per cent what it was in the winter. Well, those days are gone...and we are all seeing the results.

Now the Sheffield Steelers is a 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year business and hockey club.

The players don’t stop. Well, maybe two weeks on a beach and then the club fitness coach Danny Mawer will have them back in the gym working out.

Off the ice, well it’s just crazy. This week the club holds its summer planning meeting. Budgets to be finalised, housing, salary, equipment, travel and cars, to start with.

Meetings with the Arena, the most important subject of ice availability and scheduling.

Season tickets to sell ahead of the new season starting. Sponsorship, renewals and new sponsors to be found. Housing: where the next year’s players live, houses to find...

Head coach Paul Thompson will fly to America next week and will spend time with Rockford and Chicago, working with their GM and coaches. All the time living on the phone as the agents go to and fro with potential new signings, negotiating contracts. The new visa system means that once Thompson has found the club’s new stars, the long-winded process of legally getting them over here begins. That’s probably the most painstaking job of them all.

On Monday I tried calling Thompson, his phone engaged from 8am until 3pm when I eventually got hold of him. He had his iPhone on permanent charge. On Tuesday when I woke, I found several emails from him, the latest times at 3.22am. If Canada is awake then Thompson has to be as well. These are the first two days after the season has ended! This will continue for the next 18-20 weeks, no rest-bite, no let up.

You want to read what’s going on, all the time we are trying to get the information out to the papers and others – we ended the season with great crowds, terrific entertainment and high enthusiasm. We need to keep the Steelers in front of people’s minds, we can’t allow you to forget us.

The great thing about the crew of workers at the Steelers is that despite the constant pressure and workload, there isn’t one moan, groan or grumble from anyone. We want the season to start next week. We are excited at the progress we made as a club last year and want to drive forward come August. There are only 19 weeks to go and so much to do if we want to be better as a club.

So your summer rules are simple:

Complete your season ticket application form.

Get the lawn done.

Rest up and enjoy your holidays - as we plan another great ride next season.

We will keep you advised of all the signing news as the summer goes on. Not just signings, either; lots will be going on both on and off the ice. It’s going to be a busy summer. Enjoy folks.