Two of Sheffield Steelers longest-serving and most ionic forwards are to leave the club on a championship-winning high.
Jason Hewitt and Jeff Legue will retire at the end of the campaign, which means Arena fans will say goodbye to them on Sunday at the Play-off quarte-final against Coventry.
Legue will leave the image of a top-class import forward who forged several excellent partnerships at the club - none better than his link with Joey Talbot. Hewitt is the British Bulldog, the heart-on-the-sleeve player who gives his all. Coach Paul Thompson now has a huge task in finding a replacement Brit of his intensity.
Hewitt holds the club’s all-time appearance record (680) while Legue is Steelers’ all-time Elite League goal and points record-holder (266 goals, 608 points).
“It hurts to leave,” said Hewitt. “But this is the right time for me and the family. I still can’t believe that I am going because this club means the world to me.
“I can’t play somewhere else. I’m a Steeler. I have an opportunity outside hockey and I have a wife and family to think of.
“I have a special relationship with the fans. They have been incredible from day one. They travel around the country, around Europe. They know how much they and the club mean to me.”
Legue will return to Ontario after nine years in Sheffield.
“I arrived here a boy, now I leave a married man with a family,” he said. “It’s time I went home, though. My family in Canada is growing and I want to be a part of that.
“I will miss Sheffield and the Steelers. I could never have dreamed of the success, the great times, the incredible memories. Life-changing.
“This club is special; the fans are out of this world. They have treated me like a king and I will never, I can never, forget them.”
Legue added: “To go out as league champions is incredible. What a last year, I loved every minute. It would be nice to go out as double winners, mind you, and there isn’t any reason why we can’t do that.”
Thompson said: “I can’t tell you what it meant to me to coach these two guys.
“I’d have Jason Hewitt on my team every day of the week. He is opinionated, yes, but I love him.
“Every practice, every game, every gym session, he works his bag off. He drives you as a coach to be better. He drives his teammates to be better. He wants the best for them and his club. Make no mistake, this is his club.
“In the trenches you need Jason Hewitt around you. You win because of people like him. Just look at what he has won. What a career he has had. I will miss him.
“Three months ago I had to do something I took no pleasure in. I had to drop Jeff Legue when we had a spare import and I wasn’t happy with his game.
“He didn’t flinch, didn’t moan, didn’t sulk. He took his lumps and came back stronger. Since then he has been one of our top producers and best players. It’s been a privilege to coach him.”