Steelers Captain departs for short-term loan in German third tier

Jonathan Phillips is one of the legends of the UK game after making 1,000 EIHL appearances (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

The Sheffield Steelers have confirmed that their captain Jonathan Phillips has agreed to sign for German Oberliga outfit Passau Black Hawks. Phillips is also to be joined by fellow fans’ favourite Anthony DeLuca, who has agreed to make the move to the German third tier until the end of the season. Following the news that the German government formally classified the Oberliga as an ‘elite sport’, the Oberliga season can continue.

A different challenge for Phillips

The Oberliga has been the peak of the Black Hawks’ achievements in recent memory. In 2003-04, Passau were plying their trade in the sixth tier of German ice hockey, but powered their way into the Oberliga in 2007-08, holding their own for five seasons. They are back in the Oberliga for the 2020-21 campaign and the addition of Phillips and DeLuca certainly peps up their offensive line for the coming months. It will also be a good education for the Steelers duo, who can gain experience playing in another country.

The players will certainly get increased coverage on the rink over in Germany. The top three tiers of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, including the Oberliga, are regularly covered pre-game and in-play by sportsbooks such as bet365 and Betfair. If you aren’t yet a member at either of these sites and you fancy taking a punt on Phillips to make a difference for the Black Hawks, you can secure sign up offers with both bookmakers in the shape of free bet credits.

Much needed ice time for a true leader

Aaron Fox, head coach of the Steelers, gave his blessing to the pair leaving for pastures new, at least in the short-term. Fox said that the switch will give them “some much needed ice time” as well as “financial security” over the next few months. Even though Passau Black Hawks have been given the green light to play as an ‘elite sport’, their home games will continue to be staged behind closed doors for the remainder of November. 

Like so many other elite sports, the Black Hawks and the rest of the teams in the German Oberliga are becoming heavily reliant on streaming income from fans logging on via the internet.

Phillips has been an absolute mainstay at the heart of the Sheffield Steelers roster for 14 seasons now. The Welshman was described by the Black Hawks on their official website as the “undisputed leader” of the Steelers team. Passau also hopes that the 38-year-old can “take a leading position” for them, whilst helping to “support the young players” coming through the Black Hawks’ setup.

It is true that Phillips has been a rock for the Steelers throughout his time in Sheffield. In 2017, the Cardiff-born winger secured the title of the Steelers’ most-capped player in history, whilst steering the team to become only the second team in British ice hockey history to rack up ten playoff successes. Phillips’ commitment to the sport and maintaining his fitness ensured he would also become the first Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) player to clock up over 1,000 appearances. Long-time Steelers fans will have everything crossed that this isn’t the last they have seen of him in a Sheffield jersey.

DeLuca will be back

Meanwhile highly rated forward Anthony DeLuca is also keen to return to the ‘Steel City’ as soon as possible. Following the confirmation of the Canadian’s transfer to Passau Black Hawks, he posted on his Instagram profile: “I promise I’ll be back!” DeLuca enjoyed his time in Sheffield immensely, having originally started out professionally in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). Teaming up with former Steelers head coach Tom Barrasso – a Pittsburgh icon – was a no-brainer for him, but he soon fell in love with the setup here and has felt at home even in the post-Barrasso Steelers era.

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