Sheffield Steelers add a European flavour to north American recipe

Geoff Woolhouse - a keen observer
Geoff Woolhouse - a keen observer

Steelers are about to integrate the best of European ice hockey practices into their normal north American style.

That’s according to Geoff Woolhouse, the retired goaltender who spent five seasons at Sheffield. He has kept a close eye on the re-build under Paul Thompson as seven new players head towards the Arena. The new crop feature heavy European involvement on their CVs: Fredrik Vestberg (Sweden) Mike Duco (Austria) Levi Nelson (Germany, Italy) Jace Coyle (Denmark) Russ Moyer (Denmark, Sweden) and Tyler Plante (Sweden, Norway and Italy.)

Woolhouse said: “Thommo seems to have gone for a lot of players who have had European-based experience. That will benefit them in the Champions League ofcourse, but it seems also a reflection of how the Elite League is going. Gone are the days where it’s all about players with north American experience only. The League is changing. Five or six years ago there were 10-11 imports from north America and a couple who’d played in Europe. Not is probably 50-50, it is how the League has progressed” said Woolhouse, who lives in Whitwell near Clowne.

“The new look should show itself in the way teams have four lines, using power rather than just strength. Power is how teams can consistently generate maximum force as opposed to a one-off force. Traditionally, North Americans used to train in a particular way but I imagine Paul will use some of his own European knowledge and incorporate the best bits of that style so it is a hybrid programme which should make the team better and faster. The European game is built more on speed which suits the larger ice like Sheffield Arena” said the 30-year-old who is now making a living in property development.

Another defensive recruit is Zack Fitzgerald, who made his debut in British ice hockey last year, with Braehead Clan. He is a player that the fans will warm too, Woolhouse expects. “Last year he played the tough, nasty role well. Sheffield’s other newly recruited d-men look extremely skilled, so Zack will doubtless make sure nobody takes any liberties with them.”

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