Millennium man Phillips hits massive milestone

Jonathan Phillips is sick of hearing about how Sheffield Steelers haven't won the Challenge Cup in the Elite League era (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

Sheffield Steelers captain Jonathan Phillips admits he didn’t realise he was hitting his 1,000th game in all Elite League games until he had a conversation with a team-mate’s mum.

The long-serving skipper will hit the magic four-figure mark when Aaron Fox’s men take on Coventry Blaze on Saturday, thus becoming the first person to do so in the Elite League era.

And he revealed he was completely unaware until he was chatting to team-mate Tanner Eberle’s parents last weekend.

“I didn’t even realise until Sunday there when I was chatting to Tanner’s parents and his mum congratulated me for next weekend,” he laughed.

“I didn’t know what she was on about until she told me it would be my 1,000th game. I was like ‘oh, wow!’ so I didn’t know it was happening to be honest.”

If there is anyone who defines being able to have seen it, done it and bought the T-shirt, then it’s Phillips, who has played in every season since the Elite League first began in 2003.

He was a player for Cardiff Devils and was there for the final three years of his time at his hometown club before being lured to Yorkshire by then coach Dave Matsos.

Phillips is now playing under his eighth permanent coach and despite the ups and downs of life as professional player, he summed what his longevity is down to.

He said: “The thing about it is I love playing.  From when I first went to watch a Cardiff Devils game at the age of eight, it was something I fell in love with and something I wanted to do.

“I was never a big sports fan.  I couldn’t play football or rugby and if you ask of the boys, they’ll tell you I’m the worst sportsman ever.

“With hockey, I loved it that much and worked at it and here I am, getting to play in my 1,000th EIHL game.  It’s not something you think of and I’m not one to think about going on for another two or three years or whatever.

“I’ve just always expected to keep playing hockey and that’s how I view every season when we get ready to play again.

“I’ve never been a fan of being the centre of attention, but it’s something that’s tough to believe is happening with the time that’s gone by, but it will be a good weekend.”

Phillips has played in every season since the Elite League began in 2003 (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

Phillips also reflected on what life has been like with the Steelers this season and it’s fair to say, it’s a happier camp than last season, when they finished seventh in an altogether disappointing campaign.

They go into the weekend top of the table and on a run of six wins in their last seven, with the top four scorers in the league all coming from Aaron Fox’s side.

Phillips added: “It’s been a huge difference from last year.  It was a frustrating time and we couldn’t get the consistency or the balance right, especially in Sheffield, where you’re expected to win.

“This year’s been a breath of fresh air and the coach is a passionate man and he’s not come in to try and reinvent the wheel.  He’s a player’s coach and demands our respect.  He’s the sort of guy you like to play under and do well for and that’s what’s breeding in our dressing room.

“We’re upping our games and the confidence he’s trying to instil is right here and he gives us the freedom and the guys really respect that.

“You could see from the signings made, there was a lot of skill and scoring prowess throughout our team and that hasn’t disappointed so far.

“It’s also easier when the scoring is spread out like that, it takes pressure off guys as well and I don’t think you could pick a first line in our team.  There’s some good depth there and we’re going well right now.”

Jonathan Phillips is a guest on this week’s British Ice Hockey podcast.  Check out the full interview here or download via Apple podcasts, AudioBoom, Spotify or wherever you get your audio downloads.

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