O’Connor gears up for action at last

Ben O'Connor is excited for the NIHL Streaming Series in November (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

Sheffield Steeldogs defenceman Ben O’Connor is thrilled to be getting the gear on for the NIHL Streaming Series in November and has urged fans all over the country to get on board.

O’Connor’s side, Steeldogs, Swindon Wildcats and Milton Keynes Lightning will play a series of games at the latter end of November as a test event, with the possibility of a season to follow if all goes well.

And the GB international reckons it’s just the sort of thing fans in this country need as the sport has pretty much ground to a halt since the coronavirus hit the UK in March and continues to impact everyone’s way of life.

“I’m very excited for this series of games and with the suspension of the Elite League, I just want to play hockey like the rest of the guys,” he said.  

“I’m excited to play with the Steeldogs and coming together with Swindon and MK, getting this thing together, it gives us all something to look forward to, especially the fans of British hockey.

“We’re all crying out for some hockey and it’s great we’ll get some in the next few weeks.

“There’s a lot depending on the pilot and how it goes if they can start to look at playing a season in some capacity.  It’s certainly important that the fans get behind it as well.

“At the end of the day, there are still costs associated with it, like ice times, buses, transport, pay and equipment.  The bill will be a lot less than the Elite League, but they still need to make it viable for it to pay for itself.

“These are a great experiment and I hope fans from all over, not just fans of the Steeldogs, Swindon and Milton Keynes, all get behind it and tune in to support it and enjoys the games.”

O’Connor left Sheffield Steelers at the end of last season and was picked up by Steeldogs coach Ben Morgan, with his debut finally coming perhaps a little sooner than expected.

He revealed training for the games effectively begins now and while he’s seen some of his former Steelers team-mates leave for foreign climes for game time, he insists staying in the UK was the only option for him.

Ben O’Connor left Sheffield Steelers after six years to join NIHL side Steeldogs in the summer (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

“Our training starts on Friday in preparation for the games and I’ve been on the ice three times in the last seven months,” he added. “It’ll be good to get the rust off.  We’ll start on Friday and train a couple of times a week.

“Getting back in the dressing room is something else to look forward to as well and I can’t wait to get started.

“I’d decided I wouldn’t be going aboard this year as my wife is 31 weeks pregnant and I couldn’t have left her at home with a three year old as well, but I’ve been speaking to Rob Dowd and Davey Phillips almost daily so I know how they’re getting on.

“I’m pleased for them to get those opportunities and being at home with my family is where I want to be.  If I was 24, then maybe it would have been different, but I have to do what’s best for me and my family.

“It’s all about these games and giving hockey fans something to look forward to and for me, I get to play with some of the guys I grew up playing with much earlier in my career in the Sheffield junior system, which is something else to enjoy.”

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