Sheffield Steelers’ British core players were delighted that Ben O’Connor signed a dream deal with famed Swedish side Leksands.
But they hope it gets off to a bad start when the defenceman plays against them on Saturday in a challenge match at iceSheffield.
Skipper Jonathan Phillips, who was alongside O’Connor last year for club and country, admitted his buddy was missed at the start of Sheffield’s pre-season camp this week.
“It was strange without Benny here on day one but we all stay in touch with him. Saturday will give the fans a chance to say thank you and good luck. Here in Sheffield everyone here is excited for Ben as they are Liam Kirk (NHL draftee.)
“Of course, selfishly, we would have wanted them to stay but we all, and that includes the club, the coaches, players and fans realise they had to leave and follow their dreams and opportunities.
“He will be nervous this weekend and will want to show his best to his new club and old fans. There won’t be a player trying harder than him in Leksands side.
“It is our first game and we will give it our all as we always do. The fact that Ben is on the other side won’t make a difference for us.
“We just want to build on the great first week of camp we have had and progress up until the Nottingham game in a few weeks.
“Ben has joined a great side with a huge history.
“We all know he will do well and is worthy of his position there, we wish him well but we hope he has a losing start to his time with his new club.”
O’Connor will be one of several players from last year’s team to return: Tim Wallace and Cole Shudra are at Milton Keynes, Scott Aarssen has gone to Fife Flyers and Matt Marquardt went to Dundee Stars.