Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox urged his players not to think too much when they face HK Poprad in their pre-season double header this weekend.
The 43-year-old will make his debut behind the bench for the first time after replacing Tom Barrasso as they prepare to take on the Slovakian side.
But Fox says he’s more concerned about his players getting to know each other and expects a big test from the team who were knocked out of the play-offs at the semi final stage.
“It’ll be a good test for us,” he said. “They’ve been on the ice for the last three weeks and while I don’t know a great deal about their team, but they come from a very skilled league and like to play a puck possession game.
“It’s about the process and getting the guys to understand the system. I don’t want them thinking too much out there and to go out and play risk free, but play hard and compete and get into hockey shape.
“I’ll put some more stock in the little things and the guys know they have to be ready for 31st August and not be too worried about the result.
Training camp has begun @steelershockey ahead of this weekends pre-season games. @JJFearnley caught up with Aaron Fox, @Deluca15KC & Martin St. Pierre https://t.co/CUNRPRebNL pic.twitter.com/AFSkbpg4MM
— Steelers TV (@steelerstvlive) August 13, 2019
“I think the biggest benefit from these games other than fitness and systems is they get to know each other and show some chemistry and buy into the team we want to be.
“Mistakes are going to happen and I know we’re not going to play perfect hockey at any time this year, but understand the way we want to play, but let’s get in game shape and fine tune the technical stuff through the week.
“As for me, it’s nice to be here at last and preparing for a game. The summer was more the GM role and building the team the way I want it and making it my own.”
Fox’s task since being announced is a simple one and that is to catch Cardiff Devils and champions Belfast Giants after a disappointing campaign that saw Steelers finish in an unfamiliar seventh place.
He spoke of the summer he had in selling the league to his new players, the job he had to shape the team, but he was also struck by the passion of the Steelers fans, looking for their team to be on top again.
Fox added: “Tony gave me free rein to go and make some tough decisions and I really like the guys we have coming back from last year and the new players coming in this year and I’m looking forward to getting going here.
“It’s busy when you’re doing all the recruiting and contract stuff over the summer months, but we were patient and got the players we wanted. Obviously, you miss a couple as you go, but overall, I’m happy.
“I found selling this league wasn’t a tough thing to do. The hockey world is such a small place and everybody knows somebody.
“For me, Cardiff and Belfast are the two teams we want to catch and that’s my goal to close the gap. Cardiff retained 85% of their team and changed a couple of imports around, while Belfast have reloaded after losing a bunch of guys, but some of the signings they’ve made have been high end guys.
“If it’s us and those two teams at the end of year going down to the wire, then we’ve done our job.
“But I was struck by the fan interaction and the support is huge here. I think after the year they had last year, it’s important to get back on track and show the Steelers way is back in full effect.
“I was struck with the passion of the fans immediately, but that comes from the top. You have passionate owners who do things the right way and it trickles down to the fans. Now we have to make sure our guys come ready to play with that passion and heart.”