Sheffield Steelers welcome back Eric Neiley – a few months late, but worth the wait

Sheffield Steelers' Eric Neiley, far left, celebrates a goal against Guildford. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Sheffield Steelers' Eric Neiley, far left, celebrates a goal against Guildford. Picture: Dean Woolley.

One of the strangest player-partnerships in Sheffield Steelers' recent history took a new turn today.

Eric Neiley, who quit the club last year to start a new career in north America, is back at the House of Steel.

Neiley changed his mind about retiring from the British game in the Summer- but too late to re-sign for Steelers.

Then-coach Paul Thompson had wanted him back, but had already filled all the slots when he discovered the forward’s change of heart.

It was frustrating for player and coach, but Neiley found a slot at Milton Keynes Lightning.

There, he scored where he has scored nine goals and 17 points - including against his old club in a 3-2 win at Sheffield Arena on September 8, watched by a huge 9,252 crowd.

It is likely that behind-the-scenes talks with the 26-year-old right wing/centreman have been going on for a while, but consent was clearly needed from MKL, where he was third top scorer behind other exSteeler s Tim Wallace and Andreas Valdix.

A Steelers statement read: "Eric is presently in Sheffield and will skate with his new team mates this morning, he will also be in the line up for Sunday’s home game against Manchester Storm at the Fly DSA Arena (face off 4pm)."

While it is great for Steelers - the American is a fans' favourite - it is a hammer blow for MKL, who also have Sheffield’s Cole Shudra on their line-up.

Lightning are next to the bottom of the Elite League, one point above Dundee Stars.

Losing Neiley, who hails from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is an obvious blow.

It is not clear if the southern club has been compensated.

Neiley will soon feel at home back at Sheffield.

He scored 21 points in 25 regular season games for Steelers and will relish playing against Manchester - in his 30th game for Sheffield, against them, he scored twice, could have had a hat-trick, and was man of the match.