Make Great Britain proud of you - Sheffield Steelers’ message to national team

Ben O'Connor
Ben O'Connor

Former Great Britain defenceman and long-term Sheffield Steelers servant Mike O’Connor says Pete Russell’s team winning the gold medal in this week’s World Championships would be great for the sport in this country.

O’Connor, commercial manager at Steelers, was part of the GB side that played host in 1992 when the tournament was staged in Hull.

And as the current crop get ready for this year’s competition in Belfast, O’Connor is also hopeful his son, Ben, will play a key role for Russell.

“All these guys playing for GB going to Belfast, there’s no many in that team that haven’t played under pressure and in front of tough crowds” O’Connor said.

“It would be great to see the team win the gold medal and not only would it be good for British ice hockey, it will be great for the group of people going to Belfast.

“The UK doesn’t have the same resource as other countries or the same preparations, but they go out there with as much emotion and passion as anyone else representing their country and I expect good things.

Mike O'Connor

Mike O'Connor

“It’s a tough group and if they play well and stay out of the penalty box, they have a good chance of promotion. It will be close and they’ll have to go out and do their best.

“Ben’s had some good World Championships and he loves playing for Great Britain. It’s certainly a highlight for his year.

“But Pete has them set up in a certain way and he’ll use people in key situations and I hope Ben will figure in those plans.”

O’Connor also looked back on that tournament 25 years ago that saw Alex Dampier’s side romp to five victories and score an impressive 62 goals in Group C1.

He says there wasn’t a lot of pressure on the team, but reckons succeeding in Group B a year later was a bigger surprise.

He said: “We had a blend of dual nationals and Brits so we had a strong team going into Pool C, which wasn’t particularly a high pool and the teams that were involved, we were pretty confident.

“We knew we would do well against them, but it remained to be seen how well we would do against them so the confidence was high.

“There didn’t seem to be pressure on us that year. Everybody felt they had to perform well in front of friends, family and any colleagues that may have been there watching, so there was that pressure.

“It seemed like a free for all and as the tournament went on, we knew we were going to win it. It was a case of just how emphatic it was going to be.

“It was a good stepping stone and I think the following year in Pool B was the biggest surprise, winning all seven games in our group that year.”

Great Britain begin their 2017 World Championship Division 1B campaign when they take on Croatia on Sunday at 4pm, with the tournament continuing throughout the week.