Ashley Calvert finding his feet at Leeds Chiefs as he prepares for return to familiar ice
FORWARD Ashley Calvert admits it will feel strange heading back to Ice Sheffield today, facing off against former club Sheffield Steeldogs for the first time since his departure.
Calvert will line-up as part of a Leeds Chiefs’ team licking its wounds after an 11-1 mauling at Bracknell Bees on Sunday night.
The 28-year-old winger left the Steeldogs at the end of last month after almost nine seasons in South Yorkshire, playing an instrumental role in their NIHL One league title success two seasons ago.
But he will be lacing up his boots on the opposite side of the rink today (1pm face-off), fully prepared to upset his former team-mates.
“It’s obviously going to feel a bit weird,” said Calvert. “But I felt like I needed a change personally and having a couple of weeks out from the game has done me good, mentally.
“Coming to Leeds is like a fresh start for me and I’m enjoying my hockey again. I’ve got a lot of friends at Sheffield still, but I’ve just got to forget that and concentrate on us getting the win.”
Calvert admits his short time away from competitive hockey has meant a period of adjustment since returning to action with the Chiefs, but feels like he is finding his feet again.
“It always takes a couple of games to be back into the swing of things, getting game-ready fitness-wise,” he added. “It takes time to get used to playing with new linemates and I’m feeling more and more comfortable with each game.”
As for Calvert’s former club, player-coach Ben Morgan said the Steeldogs would be marking Calvert’s first return as an opponent in a fitting way.
Born in Sheffield, Calvery plied his trade elsewhere, the majority of his junior career was spent in Nottingham before he went on to play for Bracknell, Telford, as well as a handful of appearances for the now defunct Edinburgh Capitals in the Elite League.
He came home to South Yorkshire for the 2011-12 season and was a mainstay of the line-up under former player-coaches Andre Payette, Greg Wood, continuning for the last two-and-half seasons under Morgan.
“It was a mutual agreement when he left,” said Morgan. “He’s had a couple of weeks away from hockey and it’s probably kind of relit the flame a little bit in him and he’ll naturally have the bit between his teeth when he comes back to Sheffield and he’ll want to play the best that he possibly can to help Leeds get a result.
“It will be good to see him back and, hopefully, we can show ourselves to be a class act by the way we welcome him back. He contributed a lot to the club in his time here. He was instrumental in the league-winning campaign and the Cupwin last season too.
“It will be strange seeing him on the opposite side of the blue line come the national anthem, but players move on to pastures new. And when the puck drops we’ll both be fighting to get points for our teams then, after the game, we can have a beer with each other.”