Stylish Sheffield Steelers’ defenceman Mike Ratchuk has shrugged off rumours that his season-ending injury was caused by a broken glass rather than a game-wound.
The will-of-the-wisp blueliner was a hurt in Belfast, a tendon laceration and nerve damage prevented him from taking part in the Play off finals.
The first-year import had to watch for the bench as Steelers, inspired at the back by his veteran replacement Rod Sarich, beat Cardiff Devils 6-5 to land the prestige trophy.
Ratchuk is desperate to return after the summer, having become a hit with the fans at the Arena and elsewhere in the community.
The 29-year-old New Yorker, who flew home this morning, said: “I had been pretty close to retiring last Summer but I fell back in love with hockey playing in Sheffield.
“Every day was fun with the guys and I won the lottery in working for coaches Paul Thompson and Jerry Andersson, they were phenomenal to the whole group.
“They are a perfect fit at that club.”
Asked about his injury, which required surgery, he said he’d received it in a slash during a game at Belfast Giants in March.
He acknowledged he had heard rumours that he’d cut his hand on a beer glass, rather than on the SSE Arena ice, but denied it saying: “I figured that was more of a joke, nobody has said that to me, so it’s just gossip.”
The 150-game AHL man said it had been a bitter-sweet experience watching Steelers from the bench, as they beat Devils in double overtime at the Nottingham NIC.
But he said: “It was just one of those things and it was great seeing them win from a front row seat.
“I love the game of hockey I just don’t like missing out on games I should be playing in.”
Of Sarich, who came out of retirement to play, he said: “He is the consummate professional.
“He soon got himself back into shape, was very solid and smart - there are not many players who pass tape-to-tape like he does.”
Ratchuk says he desperately wants to return to Sheffield next year but has been told the club management that has to wait for a League ruling on import numbers to be clarified.
“I am hoping to come back. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will hear something.”
*Great Britain were beaten by Poland in the first of two international challenge matches this weekend, as Peter Russell’s side build up to the World Championships in Belfast later this month.
Friday’s game in Nottingham saw Fife’s Brendan Brooks make his GB debut, while Steeler Luke Ferrara, Matthew Myers, Zach Sullivan, Evan Mosey, Ben Bowns and Ross Venus were scratched from the 28-man training camp roster.
Jack Prince was the only GB scorer in a 4-1 loss.
The two sides play again on Saturday in Coventry, face off is at 1pm.