In a groundbreaking move the Sheffield Steelers are delighted to confirm the signing of GB youngsters Cole Shudra and Liam Kirk on three year full time apprentice contracts.
Shudra (17) and Kirk (16) have risen through the junior ranks at the Sheffield Academy and this year have broken into the Sheffield Steeldogs side in the EPL. For the past three months both players have been training with the Steelers under the supervision of head coach and general manager Paul Thompson.
“This is an exciting announcement” said Thompson “I think everyone knows how upset and frustrated we were last year when the Elite Under 20’s programme didn’t materialise. We saw that as the best way of bringing the best young local talent through into the professional game. When that fell through we sought to find the best youngsters ourselves and invited them to come and skate with the Steelers these past few months.
“The apprentership scheme will involve both young men being full time hockey players skating and working out every day and also combining this with their education.
“We have been very impressed with these two boys. We have pushed and worked them hard. They have shown that not only do they have ability but also the hunger and desire to become professional players. They both possess size, skill and a talent for the game. Our job is to take these two highly talented boys and make them professional’s.
Liam Kirk has represented England at Under 16, 18 and 20’s and will go away to the World championships at the end of the season with the Great Britain 18’s side.
“Liam is as good a player as I have seen in his age group.” said Thompson “he understands the game very well for someone so young. He makes plays that others of his age don’t make. He is a hell of a talent”
Cole Shudra also has represented England at the 16, 18 and 20’s level and will also represent GB under 18’s at the World Championships. He is of course the eldest son of Steelers legend Ron Shudra.
“First of all let me tell you that we have signed Cole Shudra because of Cole Shudra” continued Thompson “he has a lot of his Dad’s attributes but he is there because of his own ability and hard work
“Like his old man he is very cool, calm and level headed. He doesn’t get flustered
“There isn’t any pressure on these two for next season. They will be with us every day, on the ice and in the gym. They will be worked on by our fitness coach Danny Mawer throughout the summer. They will be on the team for pre season and exhibition games. We will most probably loan them back to the Steeldogs where they will gain valuable ice time. They are a project and we will give them every chance to succeed. These two boys want it, you can see that working with them. If they aren’t ready in year one we know we have time on our side”
Club owner Tony Smith backed Thompson’s decision to start the apprentice programme “Paul was keen to develop a pathway so that the best young players in and around Sheffield could see that there was a way of making it through to become a Sheffield Steeler. We like and share the vision that Paul has brought. This is one of the reasons we hired Paul in the first place, to bring this structure to the organisation. To think ahead, to bring on the best young players we can find. I want to see Sheffield born and bred players wearing the Steelers shirt and I am genuinely excited by the move the club has confirmed today”
“I want every kid in Sheffield to know that if your good enough we will find you” continued Thompson “the pathway is being put in place so the youngsters can see their way to skating out at the arena for the Steelers”