Originally published in The Cat’s Whiskers Issue #5 March 2003
Perhaps the most controversial interview I ever did, but to be fair to Simmsy he answered every question honestly, even if most wouldn’t like the answer!
Jono: First of all, how did a Brummy estate agent become involved with a Sheffield ice hockey team?
Dave: I was with the Solihull team for years, from the supporters club to the commercial manager to the team manager, then the arena opened in Sheffield. We had financial problems at the time and the directors, of which I wasn’t one, decided to fold the club. I tried to get the owners in Sheffield to buy the Solihull debt, then they could take their new team into the Premier League and leave us to stay in Solihull and start again in ED1. I was 100% behind the idea and wanted to stay in Solihull, never wanted to move to Sheffield at the time.
The two clubs agreed the move but a chap called David Huxley, one of the clubs old directors, didn’t want the move to happen. He started a campaign in the local press, and despite the BIHA agreeing the transfer, it was withdrawn because of local fan pressure. They didn’t realise that the club was going to go under, so thanks to him Solihull still went under and back to ED1, under my way they would have stayed in business with cash and back in ED1.
As it happened, several players moved to Sheffield. I was offered the chance to leave my estate agent job and go to Sheffield as full time GM. At that time nobody worked full time in hockey so I declined, still wanting to stay in Solihull. I did, however get Ronnie Wood the job and helped Ron Shudra, Phil Lee & Paul Thompson (now Blaze coach) make the move to Steelers. ironically, the Steelers and Barons would be in ED1 . I walked from Solihull and travelled to Sheffield as a spectator for their first 3 games with Paul Thompson. At game 4 the PA announcer failed to turn up, so I grabbed the m ike for the first time in my life and gave it a go. The rest as they say is history. From there I helped Damps (Alex Dampier) recruit players and the club in whatever way I could.
Jono: What has been your biggest high & low during your time in Sheffield?
Dave: Being made team manager was a good day. Winning the first Challenge Cup in Sheffield was my first trophy as manager and was a good night. Winning the league in Nottingham on both occasions ranks up there. Winning the grand slam was a nightmare, the year should have been our best, it turned into the worst in every way. Ownership screwed up like no other and Blazer and i were in the middle of players and ownership all year, I’ve never been so happy to see the end of any season, and whilst the list of my most prized possessions are the photo of Rick, Blazer and I with the 4 trophies and the Grand Slam ring we all wear, I hated that year!
Jono: Do you really hate Nottingham Panthers, and do you think it’s wise to say such things in the media?
Dave: Because it is true, I despise them and everything about them. Their insistence that they own the moral high ground when those in the know appreciate that they say one thing and do another like no other. I have been spat on, kicked, had my car tyres let down, the car scratched, the wife man-handled. May the club rot with everyone around it as well. Just not over keen if you get my drift! Is it wise to say such things? Well probably not and then some of the things above would not have happened, however my job is to put bums on seats and my words have created interest in the rivalry from the media who normally wouldn’t have taken an interest. The rivalry is a tinderbox and in my opinion needs to stay that way, the rivalry has kept the league going and funded it in many ways.
Jono: Why do you call it ‘War Torn Nottingham’?
Dave: Goes back to the old rink, which I loved and miss to this day, also we have had a few wars eh? The bench clearance was one of the most exciting times I have ever spent on a bench and we still talk about it to this day. Blazer and I can laugh for hours when reminiscing about that night and the stories behind the scenes.
Jono: Which Panthers defeat of the Steelers hurt you the most?
Dave: Any Panthers defeat hurts me as much as a Steelers defeat hurts you. I’m not being funny but to date you haven’t beaten us in a really important game, semi-final, final, league decider. One of those would hurt very much, but I feel gutted after any Panthers win against us. The recent 8-2 wasn’t easy to swallow, but after the game you still smile, shake hands and say well done. it’s only when you get home that you kick the cat!
Jono: Who have been the hockey player & coach you have admired the most?
Dave: I love Blazer, he and I get on great. I loved stealing him from you and every day think I was more right to do so. He gets stick from many who don’t know him, however when you know him and see him work you see the method in his madness. I think he is still appreciated in Nottingham, you haven’t won anything since he left you. With your budget and team this year, you would have won with him, and you all know that deep down.
Players. Rob Wilson was a great captain, the best we have had in Sheffield. I didn’t like Dennis Vial that much but admired him and the role he played for us. it’s the toughest job in hockey, which is why I have admiration for Barry Nieckar as well, I wouldn’t want to earn my living doing that.
I had tons of admiration for Scott Allison. He and I were good friends and I think still so. Ally was a big Steelers hero, scored big goals for us, won big fights and played hurt through many injuries, he was a warrior for us. I was disappointed how he left us, he made the wrong decision and I would bet a months pay that if you put him on a lie detector he would also admit that now.
Jono: Final question. Who from the current Panthers side would you like to see in a Steelers jersey?
Dave: I really don’t like to see any Panthers come to Sheffield, even though the ones we have picked up have done a great job for us. I do like John Purves, I think he is your best player, smart. I think Jinman is me, me, me. He is not a Steeler, they have to be more team guys, that’s Blazers way. Whilst I wouldn’t want him in Sheffield I think Jason Clarke has done a great job for you this year. On the salary front he is at the cheaper end so on a value for money basis he has well over achieved and turned around peoples opinion of him.
Editors Note: Many eyebrows were raised when I decided to do this interview 5 years ago, but I wanted to hear the opinions of probably the most talked about man in British hockey. As a Panthers fan I don’t like a lot of what he says, but you have to admire Dave for his blinding honesty, something which we very rarely see from the Panthers organisation unfortunately.