Ice hockey: 22 years later - the wanderer returns ‘home’ to Sheffield Steelers

Sheffield Steelers new coach - old boy Paul Thompson
Sheffield Steelers new coach - old boy Paul Thompson

Sheffield Steelers combined old school with new school today when they appointed Paul Thompson as head coach and general manager.

‘Thommo’ is regarded by the club as the best modern technician and planner available to Elite League clubs. But he is also steeped in Steeler history - he iced for the club some 22 years ago.

Today the 47-year-old took over from Gerad Adams with a remit to build a multi-platform future for ambitious owner Tony Smith. The coach also gets to see his Midlands-based family more - his last two clubs were Troja Ljungby (Sweden) and Aalborg Pirates (Denmark) which meant three months could pass before he saw wife Samantha and teenage children Georgia and Ross.

First though, he dealt with a question of his continuing link with League rivals Coventry Blaze, whom he took to four Elite League titles in six years.

“I have a good amount of shares but I’m not a director and I’ve not been involved in the day-to-day running for two years. A clash of interests? No. I am a professional” said the coach, whose twitter alias is ‘thommoblaze.’

Thompson has sacrificed a three-year deal with Aalborg for two years at Sheffield.

He said: “I had every intention of signing a long term contract with Aalborg. I enjoyed Denmark but it would have meant three years away from my family. When Tony outlined his plans, it ticked a lot of the boxes for me and got me excited. I hadn’t any intention of returning to the UK but Sheffield? Well that’s different. The Champions League really excites me. It’s big for me. It’s the future.

“I made a small club very big for years in Coventry.

“Now I’m at a big club with big ambitions. My juices are flowing, I’m ready for this challenge. Players evolve and improve, so do coaches.

“The reason I left the UK for two Pool A nations was to educate myself and improve. I gained knowledge and experience of different environments and now bring that to Steelers.”

The former d-man and GB boss added: “Its always tough signing a championship team. I had to do it four times in Coventry. Players want a rise or a big move. We do have here a very good core group of guys under contract, though. It’s key I improve the positions of the players we lose.”

Smith commented: “This is the start of new era. I am thrilled Paul is joining us.

“I have known him during his time with Coventry and GB and have always been impressed with his drive and desire. The position is Head Coach and General Manager and that is an important one to understand.

“Paul will oversee all of our hockey operations and that includes the new under 20s side. Paul had moved away to Europe to develop his career and make himself better. I liked that. Paul will challenge the rest of us at the club to be better and that he will lead us. I don’t want us to be a club that goes from one year to another, I want the Steelers to have a long term plan, I want us to be a great club as well as a great team.”

Smith went on: “I believe Paul has the experience and expertise to deliver that requirement long term.

“This move isn’t just about winning trophies. Of course it’s important to win and we all want to deliver success to our fans. I do though want structure and a set up that encourages development for the long term.

“I want a stable future for the Steelers. Off the ice I believe we have delivered that and now it is time for us to do the same on the playing side. Paul is the right man to lead that task.”