Dave Simms column: Sheffield Steelers man for all seasons

Zack Fitzgerald - Sheffield Steelers man for all seasons
Zack Fitzgerald - Sheffield Steelers man for all seasons

Did you see that the Steelers made their first summer signing for next season...and in December?

The news that American defenceman Zack Fitzgerald had extended his deal with the Steelers for an additional two years was met with a universal seal of approval.

He will be with the club until the end of the 2017-18 season.

It is a long-term contract in our sport, but then again Fitzgerald has been a massive hit with his team mates and the loyal Sheffield fan base – how can you not love Fitzy?

I had a representative of another Elite League club ask me this morning: “Sold you a lot of shirts then has he?”

He was referring firstly to Fitzgerald’s huge fan appeal and secondly that club owner Tony Smith is a sports-shirt manufacturer.

In a way it was insulting and small minded for that person to suggest that – you can be the most popular guy in the world but if you don’t cut it on the ice then you don’t sign for the Steelers for a week, let alone two more years.

Fitzgerald has been signed by the club because he does his job on the ice.

Rock solid, big presence, blocks shots, makes a good first pass and of course because he is as tough as nails and gives our team the ‘policing’ it needs.

What Fitzy brings to the table off the ice is nice, but it’s an added bonus.

The Steelers are a stronger team and a stronger club for the next two and a half seasons for Fitzgerald’s presence, leadership and skill set. Pleased to have you on board Fitzy!

His signing comes as the Steelers are having their best run of the season, six wins in seven. Ironic that our best performance of that spell was the 2-0 defeat by Coventry, we were good that night, but just couldn’t score.

So the doom and gloom brigade seem, for the short term, to have slipped back into their darkened bedroom and quietly sit on their lap-tops to find something else to groan about.

Paul Thompson and Darrell Hay however did the opposite. When things were tough a few weeks ago, they worked harder. When there was calls against fitness coach Danny Moyer for working the players too hard Thompson asked Moyer to work them harder.

The results are now starting to come through, those last four wins included last weekend’s horrific travel schedule which had the Steelers playing on Saturday evening in Fife, returning at 6.40am on Sunday morning. The players went home, caught some sleep, showered and then were back at the arena by 2.30pm for the late afternoon game against Belfast.

Ask your footballers if they would do that – no squad rotation at the Steelers, if you are fit enough to walk, you play.

Another difference over the past few weeks is the arrival of Guillaume Desbiens. I think we all liked Mike Duco and wish things would have worked out better, however Desbiens is what we thought we were getting with Duco.

Guillaume has presence on and off the ice, he plays with an edge. You mess with His Holiness Mathieu Roy as Edinburgh did and bang Desbiens is there in a heartbeat to punch you into the ground. Last Sunday he scores the game winner, assists on the third goal and then fights the biggest man in the league Matt Nickerson – I think we have found ourselves a good one in Guillaume Desbiens.