Ryan Finnerty started building his 2012-13 Elite League side last November. It was about that time that he and owner Tony Smith agreed that he would be returning for another year
"It sounds strange but even back then thoughts were in my head where I wanted to take this team. Knowing well in advance that your coming back is good, not only for a little job security but also for planning. You keep your ears open about players availability.
"There was a lot mentioned this summer about David Ling. Well it was about December that I first made contact with him and we started talking, the same goes for Cory Pecker. Sometimes deals fall into place quickly like Shawn Limpright, from being told he was available to signing him was a maximum of three days but Pecker was six months.
"It also gives me the opportunity to evaluate the players we had for the long term.
"I look at our roster now and I'm pleased. The support from Tony (Smith – the club's owner) and the others at the club has been fantastic. They have given me the support throughout, sure they have all been interested in what I was up to but they left me alone to bring in who I wanted.
"All in all I think we signed all the guys we really wanted, sure I went after a few and we didn't get them, teams in Europe still can offer more than we can. The deal with the University of Sheffield helps us out in a huge way. Every year we have three courses available. Stephenson and DeCaro return on School deals this year and they have been joined by Jorgensen, Goertzen and Fata this season. The simple fact is that without the University we wouldn't have signed these guys.
"Last season we were working to different guidelines, we had the change of ownership, the season ticket money issue for a start. That meant after losing Robert Dowd we couldn't really replace him with anything close to a player with is ability. At first we got away with it, the team played well and in many ways over achieved. Then when Ash went down it really showed. You can sign as many spare imports as you like but you can't replace your Brit's.
"Again talks with Colin Shields opened well before the end of last year, maybe just after Christmas. He was target number one, a great British player who would help us with our goal output and give us quality depth. I remember when the e-mail arrived with his contract signed I felt a certain amount of relief.
"Legge was another must, he is the core of our team and we did the deal with him quickly and well before the end of last season. The Brit's quickly followed so we had the base of our team, the core. It was vital that Wooley, Ash, Jono, Tomo and Hewey re-signed. A big year a head for all of those guys but everyone of them you want in the trenches with you
"I expected both Matt Stephenson and John DeCaro to return, they had two year agreements and were at school. I think we all know that both looked around. I have no objection to that, I was a player too and that’s what you, you look around. Johnny found a deal and took it and then changed his mind, again I had no major issues with that. Matt looked and then liked what we were doing here and returned too. Again no issues with that at all
"I liked Jorgensen in Braehead, liked him a lot. John DeCaro knew him from playing with him in Bossier and helped me out with a few numbers and e-mail addresses. Schooling was a bait, it was something he was interested in and we finalised that deal quickly, again, very pleased and satisfied with him joining us.
"Cory Pecker and I had been talking for sim months, I wanted some high end scoring talent to compliment Legge. He was interested, he fancied a change and I liked everything I heard about him. I'm fascinated by him and can't wait to work with him, I'm expecting big things.
"About this time I took a call in the office from a young man I didn't know, the guy spoke with a broad American accent and was telling me he wanted to play for the Steelers. His name Danny Wood. I know all about him now but back then I didn't know a thing. I did the homework and made my move, I think we could have found a sleeper here. Playing 6 or 7 years back in the States will have given him a great grounding and excellent coaching. I'm really interested how he will develop.
"I had already agreed to keep Lee Esders, I love that kid. I wanted to keep Squires in the system but wanted him to take another route that I thought would develop him as a player and person. He didn't agree and I think we all know what happened afterwards.
"I think the Danny Meyers signing was the biggest surprise. I don't think any of us expected that to happen. I got a call off Simmsey saying that he had heard Danny was leaving and would we be interested. Of course we would, but how did bringing another top end Brit effect us on the ice, on the pay roll and with signing other players. Of course you want him, he is a brilliant addition for us, but how do you make it work. We found a way. I was in Canada at the time. I had spoken with Danny a few times and he knew we wanted him, I let Simmsey and Tony to sit on him whilst the deal was signed, there was no getting away from those two
"I think after Danny I thought about going 3 import D with Tomo and Danny, but then realised that six was the way forward. It was just after Danny signed that Matt Stephenson confirmed so with Roddy, Matt, Jim Jorgensen and the two Brits we looked strong and I knew we had ample time time to sign one last player for the blue line. I knew I would wait it out, wait for the right guy. I tried for Mike Egener, he was one that got away, Thommo ended up grabbing him for the Blaze. He will be a good player for them I'm sure.
"So it was back to the forwards. Simmsey kept telling me that the biggest problem I would have was replacing my self. You don't think of yourself like that but the reality was that I did need a miserable, grumpy aggressive centre who would bring energy, create havoc when needed and also lead the charge. Tylor Michel I thought, I didn't know at the time he was available and I didn't know he was close on a return to Cardiff. We soon stopped all thoughts of that. As I sit here now we have signed NHL and AHL guys, players with brilliant resume's but the signing that made me have the warmest feeling was Michel – you will love him
"With some teams, OK Coventry going down the toughness route I started to think we we looked in that area. Adam Huxley was a name that crossed my desk, roughly at the same time as Steven Goertzen. They were friends which helped. I was well down the line with Goertzen and we were just awaiting the OK from the University, Huxley seemed perfect for us and boy what a character he sounded, he was so excited and up for it. I thought we had the perfect guy. Then after agreeing and signing a deal he had to walk away, just the day after agreeing the deal he had a change of circumstances, something far more important than hockey, something that couldn't be helped. A real shame as I think we all would have loved him here, maybe another year
"When I talked above about the University of Sheffield, Goertzen is a great example. Look at his career, NHL, AHL, top level Europe and he is still just 28. This guy has a career ahead of him. Signing him gives the team added credibility, gives the club added credibility. He is perfect for us, a great signing, a real leader and character player.
"For the last forward, do I go toughness and try and sign a Huxley replacement or do I go goals or do I go grit. I decided to go for them all. I played against Shawn Limpright, I had enquired about him early days but understood he had agreed in France. Then out of the blue I got a call saying France was off and he was available, a couple of days later the deal was done and dusted. Very happy once again.
"So one guy left, that big D man. A lot of people were saying sign "toughness" and "out and out killer" I didn't agree. Hen we won the double we had team toughness, sure Munner was a heavyweight but boy could he play as well. I wanted a big D man, I wanted toughness but toughness that could play. In Denmark last year I thought Drew data was the best D man we played against. He gave you nothing, hit hard, was dirty and made good decisions. When I got the call he was available I knew the wait was worthwhile and he was the guy for us. A week later he was signed, a week after that and the schooling was agreed and we could announce the deal.
"Now we have to blend this excellent group of players into a team. I have no reason to think we can't do that. I love our balance, offence, defence, skill, grit, toughness, work ethic I think this team has it all.
"I hope you like the sound of it as much as I do. I hope your as excited about it as I am
"See you on the 1st September Vs. Coventry Blaze"