Prelude to Great Britain’s entry at the top level

Prelude to Great Britain’s entry at the top level

Robert Newbolt09 May 2019Robert Newbolt»

Mike O'Connor was a defenceman for Great Britain and Sheffield Steelers back in 1994 when they were last in the top flight and he discusses how things were then.


One of the dual nationals who was in Bolzano on his third tour of duty for his adopted country was veteran Canadian-born defenceman Mike O’Connor, then playing with Humberside Hawks after nine seasons with Durham Wasps and who would then go on to join the Steelers later that summer.

The 57-year-old, now working as commercial manager for the Steelers, only has fond memories of those 12 days he spent over there.

“We were all at Wembley for the play-off finals on the Sunday, got issued with our blazers afterwards and then jumped on a plane to Italy the following day,” said O’Connor. 

“Head Coach Alex Dampier was very good at keeping people settled. We were no different back then to how the team is today, in so much as nobody expected us to beat Canada or Russia or any of the top hockey nations. We thought we had a pretty good chance of getting a result against Norway or France, but that never happened.

“You can imagine how deep the line-ups were for the likes of Canada and Russia back then, but everybody is so deep at this level and it is the same today.

“We just couldn’t sustain that kind of speed and tempo for a full sixty minutes, but it is still an experience that I’ll never forget, and it will be exactly the same for those boys who lace up their skates on Saturday to face Germany.

“There was little funding unlike today, it’s a lot better now and the preparation is vast (5 games prior to tournament) unlike hitting the ground running then.

“Also, there were lots of dual national players, including myself, as well as fully fledged Brits but now the standard in Britain is so high that things have come full circle player-wise.

“I imagine the emotions of the players will still be the same now though, after all it is their first time at this level. It will be a mixture of excitement tinged with trepidation: a thoroughly daunting experience” 

On a related note, his son Ben will be playing at the heart of the British defence on Saturday. He has been a part of the journey to this stage under head coach Peter Russell after having made his debut in 2008.

Great Britain play Germany on Saturday just 25 years and 2 weeks since they last faced each other.

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