Hockey in the United Kingdom, like many other places around the world, is improving every year. Players from North American professional leagues are joining the EIHL more than ever, and just this year we saw the first English born and trained player ever drafted into the NHL in Liam Kirk. The Arizona Coyotes prospect had played for the Sheffield Steelers the past few seasons, who will now have another strong tie to the NHL. Tom Barrasso, former goaltender and Stanley Cup champion, has been hired as the Steelers new head coach.
Barrasso, 53, twice took home the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and was a Vezina Trophy winner as a rookie with the Buffalo Sabres. The 19-year NHL veteran moved into coaching a decade ago and has had a varied an interesting career. Working as a goaltending and assistant coach with the Carolina Hurricanes until 2012, he then took his talents overseas and has worked in Russia, the Czech Republic and Italy. Now he’ll try to establish himself in the EIHL, and he has some big shoes to fill.
Those shoes belonged to Paul Thompson, who left the team recently for personal reasons but is arguably the greatest coach in EIHL history. Though he’d worked for the Steelers—as coach and GM—for just three and a half seasons, Thompson has nine Coach of the Year trophies in his career and was the head of the international program for several years. It’s hard to find many coaching records in the EIHL that don’t have Thompson’s name beside them, meaning there will be quite a few expectations that Barrasso will have to deal with going forward.