Team GB defenceman Ben O’Connor has signed a one-year contract with the Guildford Flames.
The 33-year-old spent the second half of last season playing for SC Csíkszereda, scooping the Erste Liga and Romanian championships.
His arrival in Surrey follows the departure of star blueliner Jamal Watson, who led Paul Dixson’s team in points (51) last term.
“I am excited to be a part of the Flames organisation and to get going come August,” O’Connor revealed in a club statement. “After speaking with Paul, the future looks very bright. I Look forward to meeting everyone.”
O’Connor has amassed 554 appearances and 384 points since breaking into the Elite League with the Basingstoke Bison in 2007-08, collecting numerous titles and individual accolades along the way.
Flames have come to terms for next season with one of the most decorated EIHL and GB players in league history with the signing of Defenceman Ben O'Connor. https://t.co/MWRG41D4Ky pic.twitter.com/lyaFfrwjEC
— Guildford Flames (@flamesicehockey) July 19, 2022
His trophy cabinet includes the EIHL British Player of the Year award (2014-15), two First All-Star Team appearances (2014-15, 2015-16), back-to-back league titles (2014-15, 2015-16), a playoff crown (2016-17), and a Challenge Cup (2019-20).
“We are pretty excited to get a guy who has such a long-standing record of success in this league,” said Dixon.
“If there is something he has not yet achieved in Elite League, I can’t think of what that might be. He has won league, cup and playoff titles and has picked up a variety of individual honours recognizing his unique talents along the way.
“We want his ability in the line-up of course, but we also want to be able to use his rich experience, domestically and internationally, to enhance our dressing room culture as we look to challenge a little harder against some of the league’s top teams.”
Internationally, O’Connor helped Team GB earn promotion to the top level of the IIHF World Championship and continues to play a key role in Pete Russell’s squad.
Analysis: Ben O’Connor Joins the Guildford Flames
It’s easy to sense Dixson’s excitement at having signed O’Connor, one of the Elite League’s most-decorated players.
“He is a very highly skilled player and still has a great desire to succeed,” the 48-year-old said of his newest recruit. “We know he will make a big contribution to team success, and we can’t wait to get our first look at him in Flames colours.”
O’Connor has a wealth of experience, spanning the Ontario Hockey League (Major Junior), Sweden’s second division, and top leagues in France, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Hungary.
While his spell with the Cardiff Devils in 2021-22 didn’t work out, he still has plenty to offer and will be a valuable asset for Guildford next season.
Dixson’s squad is under construction, but it feels as though O’Connor will slot into a second- or third-pair role. However, like Robert Lachowicz, he will play a crucial part in leading the team.
O’Connor won plenty during his prime years with the Sheffield Steelers. Will he inspire the Flames to similar feats in the months ahead?