Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday), Sheffield Steelers appointed their new Head Coach and what a coup it is. Arriving as the permanent replacement for Paul Thompson is Tom Barrasso, who has spent the last two and a bit seasons coaching in the Alps Hockey League with Asiago.
The reason I say that it is a coup for the Steelers to bring Barrasso in, is quite simply because of his pedigree. Not just because of his coaching which has taken him from his native United States to the EIHL via Russia, Slovakia and more latterly. However, it’s his playing career which stands out and shows you how much of a big draw this actually is by the Steelers.
Barrasso’s playing career in case you didn’t know, just screams stellar. Twice a Stanley Cup Champion, the youngest ever player to win the Calder Memorial Trophy and also a Vezina Trophy winner. Not that bad a personal haul, eh? One of his team-mates for one of the Stanley Cup triumphs was Steelers legend Ken Priestlay who has already stated how excited he is with this appointment. He’s not the only one to be honest. After all the bickering in the last few weeks, the fan base seem genuinely buzzing at the new man at the helm. I know I am.
After finishing his playing career in 2003, Barrasso cut his coaching teeth so to speak in 2007 as a goaltending coach with the Carolina Hurricanes. This will be of great help to both Jackson Whistle and Brad Day I personally think as his knowledge of the game will rub off on them both and make them better goalies. After two seasons in the goaltending coach role, Barrasso then spent the next three seasons serving the same organisation as assistant to the newly appointed Paul Maurice and latterly Kirk Muller. The 2012-13 season saw Barrasso venture into the KHL and be reunited with Maurice at Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
Maurice left the Russian side after one season, and so did Barrasso. There followed a bit of hiatus before he was appointed as a goaltending coach at Slovan Bratislava in 2015. The role in Slovakia didn’t last long before Tom was on his travels once more, this time to Italy as the newly appointed Head Coach of Valpellice Bulldogs where he would win the Italian Cup that same season with current Steelers forward Stefan Della Rovere in the line up as well as former EIHL players Shane Madolora (Nottingham), Trevor Johnson (Manchester) and Davide “Dave” Nicoletti (Clan). After the Italian league reorganised itself the following season, Tom relocated to Asiago where he won the Alps Hockey League title last season.
So definitely a very good pedigree indeed, and Steelers will be hoping that this will start to lift any gloom and doom that seems to have enveloped the team in this opening month and a bit. It won’t be an instant fix, anyone who thinks it will is probably dreaming, but he should be able to put his stamp on things and if players aren’t pulling their weight then he will wield the axe like his precedessor. His contacts list is probably extensive, he will know people at all levels. This can only help rebuild the Steelers. Players will want to play for him, they will have heard the name and think to themselves “I want to be a part of that.” – it comes with the reputation.
One thing I can guarantee for sure is that the attendance figure next Wednesday when the Steelers entertain Fife is certainly going to be higher than what the Steelers expected. I would have initially predicted the figure to be around the 3800-4000 level, it’s midweek and no disrespect meant: it’s Fife. However, the appointment of Barrasso is going to push that over 5000 and I sincerely believe that. People are going to be excited to see Barrasso’s first game and make him welcome in the House of Steel. Tony Smith will be rubbing his proverbial hands with glee, I tell you. The income will be definitely higher than what the Steelers projected it to be, Tom Barrasso will put bums on seats.
One final thought however, what has become of the General Manager role which Paul Thompson combined with being Head Coach? Nothing has been said about that. Perhaps the Steelers are heading in another different direction and not going down that route. Or are they biding their time to find a suitable candidate to fill that role? One can only wait and see.
Welcome to Sheffield Tom, I’ll see you on the 21st when we host the Storm unless I go to Cardiff the night before. If anyone can do it, you can.