Following on from my Paul Thompson article, I’ve decided to do a piece on the Steelers and GB captain Jonathan Phillips. Once again, the views you are about to view and read are those of mine alone and do not represent the thoughts of my hockey club. Thanks for reading in advance…
It was the summer of 2006, and Jonathan Phillips had just come off of the best seasons in his career. He had been part of the Cardiff Devils side that won the 2005-06 Challenge Cup in such dramatic fashion against the Coventry Blaze, and was already an established member of the national side. Those performances hadn’t gone unnoticed though, and former Devils team-mate David Matsos made him a target for the Steelers whom he had been named as the new Head Coach of in succession to Dave Whistle.
Little did the Welsh winger know then, he would be still a Steeler 13 seasons on.
Having been alternate captain in his last season at the Devils, Phillips served in the same role in his first season at Sheffield: Matsos having named fellow new signing Shawn Maltby as his captain. That opening season in Sheffield didn’t bring anything in the terms of honours, but this was to change in the following seasons.
The following season saw Matsos promote him to the position of captain, a position that he has held with such distinction since bar the 2013-14 campaign when Doug Christiansen appointed Steven Goertzen to the role in a surprise move however Jonathan served as one of the two alternates.
Jonathan Phillips is not the most vocal of captains when on the ice, he doesn’t shout and bawl at officials when things are not going the Steelers way. However, it’s been said that his presence just makes others accountable whether it be on ice or inside the locker room. He’s a captain whose work ethic is second to none and that’s what he expects from his team-mates whether it be as a Sheffield Steeler or a GB internationalist. That’s respect, and is a trait that others could learn a lot from.
Since becoming a Steeler, “Jono” has had a stellar career. Not only is he the club’s record appearance holder, 770 at the time of writing this article (his nearest active challenger Robert Dowd is 260 adrift), but he is also the most decorated captain in the club’s Elite League history. Four times he has been a Elite League champion, and twice a Elite League Play-Off champion. That’s not a bad effort is it? He’s also been captain of the national team since 2008-09 and led them to those unforgettable glory nights in Belfast and Budapest. Barring a hiccup, he’ll be shaking hands with someone like Connor McDavid in Kosice next May.
People have always asked the same question of him at the end of the season, is he planning to move back to South Wales? Jono dismisses them straight, Sheffield is home for him, his wife Kirsty and their two boys who are on their way to learn how to play this most beautiful of games. He’s taken Sheffield to his heart and if ever there was an award for the most popular Welshman in this City then this man would certainly be a front runner for it, if not the actual winner. He’s an absolute credit, especially with the way he conducts himself on and off ice.
Of course, time will certainly come around and it will be time to call it a day on a quite remarkable career at some point. I hope the Steelers, reward him with the best reward possible, that being the hoisting of the number 20 jersey to the rafters in the House of Steel. He’s as much deserving of this as any of those who currently have this honour bestowed on them.
How else can you reward such a true legend of the game, a terrific servant to Sheffield Steelers, previously Cardiff Devils, and British Ice Hockey? There will never be a player like him, he’s certainly one of a kind.
Thank you for everything Jono, we salute you.