The events of the summer are well known. Nottingham Panthers captain Danny Meyers was released by the club and signed for the Sheffield Steelers shortly after. After Danny joined Sheffield I asked him if he’d like to do another interview ‘when the dust has settled’ to which he agreed and we got together on Tuesday 28th August to record his thoughts, which are as brutally honest as ever.
This is Danny’s first major interview since he signed for the Steelers. He said he wanted to speak to TCW first because the last interview he did with me was, in his words, “The best I’ve ever done because you printed everything that was said word for word”. He hopes that giving this interview will help bring him some closure on the events of the summer.
Jono: First question, have you got over what happened?
Danny: I’ve certainly got over it, but it would be wrong for me to say that as soon as I signed for Sheffield all my feelings for Nottingham were gone because that was never the case. It was a very tough time in my life because it affected my family especially as my wife had got a new job, my sons were at school here, they were both born here and my parents had moved up here. I really felt I had set up roots here but not only that I was totally committed to the club, I took on board everything that the fans and the club wanted and I wanted the same, it was a mission of mine to try and get the League Championship. My sole focus despite all the championships we’d won with regards to Challenge Cup & Play-Offs, was to be stood there lifting the league title and when that’s taken away from you I now have to think what is my vision? What is my focus? What is my target? And when it’s taken away it feels like you’re standing in an empty room, you’re looking around thinking what is next for me? It was definitely the toughest part of my life for sure.
Jono: Do you understand why it happened and was it ever explained to you?
Danny: It was explained to me but I guess that’s more of a question for Corey. I’ve had to accept it because you have to accept that as a sportsman you’re always on the cusp of being fired. I know that sportsmen nowadays get a bit of a rough rap with regards loyalty and not caring but I think people have to realise that players have those insecurities too, they can lose their jobs straight away. Look at me, I got back from playing for GB on the Sunday and found out on the Monday, I was on a huge high from helping GB stave of relegation, was still on a high from winning the ‘double, double’ and then got brought crashing down to Earth. One of things I have taken from it is that things can happen pretty quickly and you really have to appreciate what you have.
You can never be too secure and I always felt that every day I would fight for my job and I was always scared of being fired, when you play for a high pressure team like Nottingham you always have that fear that you could be released and unfortunately for me that’s what happened.
Jono: You said you found out on the Monday but the news wasn’t released until Thursday. How were those days in limbo?
Danny: It was really tough. When I spoke to Corey and he told me I’d been released from my contract he asked if I could keep it quiet because it was not being released to the media so I didn’t speak to anyone. I got word on the Wednesday that there would be a press conference on the Thursday so that’s when I knew the announcement would be made. I hadn’t spoken to anyone about it up until Wednesday night when I messaged all my current team-mates to let them know what was going on because I wanted them to hear it from me before it was announced in the morning. It was a long two and a half days I can tell you that much, it wasn’t much fun but luckily for me I have an incredibly supportive family and we all grouped together.
Jono: What did you think to the reaction from your former team-mates? Was it unexpected?
Danny: When I found out on Monday there was a lot to take in and I went into a panic because I didn’t have a job. Telling my wife I’ve been fired was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. Telling her that I didn’t have a job to support two kids and a mortgage was very unsettling for both of us and it was extremely tough. I went through a range of emotions but one of the emotions I didn’t really think about was the reaction of my team-mates and I certainly didn’t expect the reaction that I got from current and past team-mates, the support that they showed me was nice. A lot of good has come out of my release from Nottingham because it gave me time to reflect on what a great six years I’d had. For me when we won a championship I was always looking to the next one. When I got back from GB on the Sunday, that Monday morning I was thinking about next season and trying to win the league. I never, ever once stopped and looked back and thought wow, all those trophies, all those amazing nights, it gave me a chance to reflect back on all those incredible times. It was great because it showed to me that I’d had enough impact on these players lives that they’d got in touch with me and were so supportive. It was a very tough time but a lot of positives came from it but I was completely overwhelmed by what my team-mates had to say and the support they’ve shown me since.
Jono: On the Thursday that it was announced that you had been released it was also announced that Jonathan Weaver had signed. Do you think that was awkward for him?
Danny: I think it was really awkward for Weaves and I actually phoned him on the Friday to apologise. I felt bad for him; he’s an extremely nice guy. We’re GB team-mates and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for, not just as a player but as a person, he’s a fantastic person and someone I like an awful, awful lot. What was a great, great signing for Nottingham got overshadowed, I mean Jonathan Weaver after everything he’s done in the sport signing for Panthers, I wish he’d had his own day where it could have been embraced and celebrated. I phoned Weaves on the Friday and I said to him that there’s obviously going to be a story run that you’re my replacement but I want you to know that there’s no hard feelings between you & I.
We’re possibly going to meet up when GB go to Japan in November and at the World Championships in the future, Weaves has always been good to me over the years and we’ve always got on extremely well and I didn’t want any hard feelings between us. I didn’t want Weaves sitting there thinking he’s took another man’s job knowing that like him I have two kids. We talked for a while on the phone and it was good that we spoke and we’ve spoken since. I don’t hold anything against Weaves, I actually believe that at the time he thought he wasn’t coming in to replace me; he was coming in to play alongside me. I wish he could have had his day and his signing could have been celebrated the way it should have been.
Jono: On the Thursday it was announced at 11am that you had been released by the Panthers. How many minutes after 11 was Ryan Finnerty on the phone?
Danny: [Laughs] the problem was my Twitter went into absolute overdrive and my battery went on my phone pretty quickly. I decided that day I was going to go out, my wife was working, my kids were at school and I didn’t want to be sitting at home. I ended up going and sitting in a Starbucks, I was wearing a hoodie and had the hood pulled over my head. I really wanted to sink into a hole but I couldn’t and I couldn’t just ignore the people who were showing me such support from the messages I was getting on Twitter and the phone calls I was getting from GB team mates, guys I’d played EPL with, everyone seemed to be wanting to get in contact with me and show their support. Obviously amongst those phone calls were calls from other teams and that was really overwhelming that other teams wanted me on their team.
I went into a panic straight away, thing was pretty much all the GB guys had been signed up, the teams know they have to get their GB guys so that was one of my first worries, who’s going to have space for me? I genuinely didn’t think I was going to get a job anywhere, so I really went into a panic and that was one of the first things I thought when I got told, but clubs got in contact with me.
There was never a bidding war, from the off I said I just wanted the same as the contract I was on at Nottingham. I didn’t want it dragged out to be honest with you; I wanted it over and done with straight away so I could move on. No team outbid another team; I wasn’t playing one team off against another. Each team offered exactly the same so then it was my decision for me and what suited my family best.
Jono: Less than a couple of weeks later it’s announced that you’ve signed for Sheffield. Did signing for the Steelers worry you at all?
Danny: It scared the life out of me! I was scared about how it would be viewed in Nottingham; I was scared about how it would be viewed in Sheffield. I texted my then ex-team-mates the night before it happened to tell them I was signing for Sheffield and to say sorry that I was signing for a local rival, I even texted Corey to say that. I was very wary of the sensitivity of the move, but ultimately it was the move that was right for me professionally and for my family. I have no doubt that there will be certain people on forums that will question my move and say that my commitment wasn’t 100% for Nottingham because I’ve signed in Sheffield, but quite frankly I don’t have to answer some of those questions when people ask me that. First and foremost it’s my family that I have to look after, but the move allowed me to continue to live in Nottingham, it allowed my family life to remain the same and it allowed me to play for another top team that will be challenging for silverware. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been able to win a lot of championships and I didn’t want to go to another team and not win championships. I’m hungry for more trophies, I’ve been very lucky to win quite a few and I want to continue to win more.
To be honest with you, for the people who question that because I’ve moved to Sheffield I’m being disloyal to Nottingham, well Nottingham let me go, they said that they didn’t want me in their team and that they were better off without me, so I have to do what’s best for me. I don’t think my signing for Sheffield should be detrimental to anything that I’ve done with the Panthers in the previous six years.
Jono: Overall what did you think of the reaction of both fan-bases when you signed for the Steelers?
Danny: I got 100% positive feedback when it was announced that I was going to be released. I got 100% positive feedback when I joined the Steelers. I’ve stated previously that I don’t go on to forums so I don’t know what is being said on them. The feedback I got was from my Twitter and through my friends, team-mates and family, everyone was extremely positive. I’m not naive enough to think that everyone was happy that I signed in Sheffield from Nottingham but these are probably the same people that never liked me in Nottingham in the first place anyway, so I don’t feel like I’ve let anyone down. The people that choose to not like me as a player, that’s fine and that is their preference but I don’t have to listen to them and that’s my preference. If they don’t like the way that I play or they don’t like me as a person that’s fine, but one thing they cannot question is the commitment I showed for the club. They can question many things about my abilities as a player or whatever, but with regards to the commitment I showed to this club I don’t think that can ever be in doubt.
Jono: You’ve recently started pre-season training with the Steelers. I know you haven’t been there very long but what are the main differences you’ve seen so far between the two clubs?
Danny: It’s a different role for me first and foremost, I’m not the captain so I literally just go there and then come home to Nottingham. Jonathan Phillips is the captain and he’s my captain and I’ll play for Jona the way those guys played for me, the respect they showed me as captain I’ll show to Jona. It’s a different role for me, it’s very exciting and a new challenge, I like the fact that I will have to prove myself over again. It’s nice that I’m not going to be in Corey’s shadow, when Corey plays he is the number one defenceman and that’s how he likes things. I think had I continued playing for Nottingham while Corey was there I’m not sure how much my game would have developed because Corey already had that role, I’m not talking about being the number one offensive guy but what player doesn’t what to be number one at his position? I certainly wanted to be the number one D man, I’m not saying I should have been, of course that is what I aspire to be, but while Corey was playing I was never going to be that guy, so it allows me to take on a new challenge. I love going away with GB because it’s a new challenge and I really embrace that, but while Corey is the coach he has the right to do things the way he wants them doing and if he sees fit that he’s the number one guy and he should log the most ice-time and the most crucial minutes, then he has every right to do that. While he was still playing I wouldn’t have got that, so that allows me to embrace a new role now I’m going to Sheffield and that’s something I’m really excited about.
Jono: Dave Simms has always said that any new players coming into Sheffield have to instil a ‘we hate Nottingham’ mantra. Has he tried that one with you yet?
Danny: Well, we only had our induction day today and he actually didn’t mention anything like that, but I have no doubt that he will (smiles)! The thing is it’s the same for the Nottingham guys, any new guy coming to the team will do research on the club and they’ll know. Players talk to each other so any player that’s arriving for the Panthers won’t need to be told by Corey how big the rivalry is with Sheffield, they’ll already know and I’m sure the new guys in Sheffield will have been tweeted by Simmsey to tell them! He hasn’t said anything yet, but I have no doubt he will and I’m sure leading up to the first game he’ll let everyone know.
Jono: I’m sure the 22nd September is marked on your calendar. Does the return to the NIC bother you in any way?
Danny: It was the first date I looked for to be honest. It doesn’t bother me but it is a monkey I need to get off my back, I have to get that game out the way. Jono: Is it something you are anxious about? Danny: I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t anxious but then I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited. I have a mixture of emotions about it all, I don’t know what it’s going to be like and I don’t know what sort of reception I’m going to get. First and foremost this is Nottingham v Sheffield, the first game of the season and that’s bigger than any storyline, that’s bigger than me coming back and that’s the way it should be. I think the build-up in the week before the game will be harder than the game itself because once I’m on the ice everything will be fine and I’ll be able to block everything out. I’d be absolutely BSing if I said it wasn’t the date I looked for first, I’m really glad it’s early on in the season and I’m glad the first one is in Nottingham. Once that first game is done I don’t have to answer any more questions because as you can imagine I get asked a lot and hopefully after this I won’t keep getting the same questions asked all the time.
Regardless of how the fans react to me at the end of that first game, I’d still like to take the opportunity to thank everyone at the end of the game just to show my appreciation to all the support they’ve given me over the past six years, and if people are booing hopefully they can hold off for a couple of minutes while I thank them all.
Jono: Going back to the success you had with the Panthers, we spoke last year around this time and you said to me that despite the Play-Off & Challenge Cup success there were still things that bothered you that season in regards to the league challenge, was it different last season even though the outcome was the same?
Danny: Last year was easier to take to be honest with you. Last year was the best Panthers team I played on because I felt like the guys gave it their all every night. When I think back my most frustrating year was the 2009/10 season because we blew the league that year. Coventry who won it, with all due respect that was not a good Blaze team, Belfast weren’t particularly good that year, Sheffield were horrendous, I think they finished sixth. When I look back that was the year we should have won it, which was incredibly frustrating. I couldn’t complain last year because I felt the guys gave it their all every night, I really did and I can’t really say that of previous Panthers teams. That team worked so hard last year and there were nights where it just didn’t happen for us, we simply weren’t good enough we weren’t better than Belfast. The record that they put together, certainly their away record, there won’t be any team doing that this year that’s for sure. I felt proud of the guys last year because even in losses I felt that the guys battled I really did, so it was easier to take because the guys did as much as they could and winning the Play-Offs and the Challenge Cup was as far as we could have taken that team.
Jono: Moving on to the league now, what do you think of the new conference set up?
Danny: I really like the new conference set-up. I don’t like the import levels going up, but everything about the new conferences is great. I think it will be better for the so-called Northern teams to build up rivalries. I feel for Hull a little bit because they’re going to be in the middle and they have more travelling, but they do have more chance of winning against those teams with all due respect. When you look at our conference it’s tough! I can honestly see that whoever wins the league if it comes from our conference, that team could suffer up to 14 losses and still win the league. There’s no teams going to be doing what Belfast did last year there’s no doubt about that, it’s going to be a tough, tough conference there’s no doubt about that. I know people are talking about Braehead having an easy run, to a certain extent they do, they look an extremely powerful team. When the fixtures came out, I guarantee that every coach would have had a red circle around the date of their conference games. If the league would have stayed the same, with all due respect no-one would have circled Braehead but now it’s the way it is we’re all gunning for Braehead. I know that they may seem to have an easier ride in that conference, but Braehead is now as big as Nottingham & Belfast for us so they’re going to have to come pretty hard against all our conferences teams because we’re going to be gunning for them, there is no doubt about that.
Jono: You said you don’t agree with the increase in import levels to 11. Why?
Danny: Before Robert Farmer came back we lost Farms, Robert Dowd & Mark Richardson, so we lost three players but we got Colin Shields back so that’s two players. We went up to 11 imports because we lost two British players, I think that’s pretty bad to be honest with you. I think it’s disrespectful to the other British players who are out there as there are players who can step into those roles. Maybe not be as good as Mark Richardson or Robert Dowd who are two elite British players but how do you know until you give them a chance?
I also didn’t like the fact it went up to 11 because players lost their jobs. Tom Norton lost his job and maybe that’s me getting a little emotional because Norts is a good friend of mine that I’ve looked after for a number of years and he lost his job because the import level went up. That’s tough to take, I don’t like seeing that. There have been other players who have also lost their job because the import levels have gone up. If you take away those three guys Farmer, Richardson and Dowd, seven British players lost their job because we lost three British players overseas. As a British player I’m always going to be routing for my fellow Brits and I don’t think anyone can expect me to agree with that rule.
Jono: Who are you looking forward to playing & where are you not looking forward to playing?
Danny: I love going to Braehead, I love that Arena, I love the fans there, and the atmosphere is fantastic. Every time I go there it seems that they’re getting more & more fans. They have a superb, exciting team and the fans just love their team and the attendance just continues to grow and it is just an awesome place to play, it really is.
As regards to where I don’t want to go there’s nowhere. I’m fine going into any rink it really doesn’t bother me; once you’re on the ice they’re all the same to me. The changing rooms may differ, some are cold, some don’t have warm showers but if you’ve seen pictures of our team bus this year then going on the road isn’t going to bother us anyway (laughs).
Jono: Of all the teams in the league which ones really impress you?
Danny: I love the fact that Fife have improved this year because if these conferences are going to stay the way they are Braehead are going to need someone to run with them. I know some teams are really held up by their budget but Fife could really get it going. They would have learned a lot last year, they know they would have to spend a little more in certain areas and there is money there to do it. They’ve got better this year already, they’ll have a better record this year and I don’t think they’ll be finishing last again. When I first started playing professionally Fife was such a big game, they used have big crowds, awesome atmosphere. Any old school fan would tell you exactly the same. Going up there last year it wasn’t fun beating them by that many, I’ve got a lot of respect for Fife and the tradition they have. They’re the oldest hockey club and you’d like to see them get back to winning ways and being a competitive team. I definitely feel they’ve made improvements and that they’re going to be a lot better this year.
I think Panthers look extremely strong again. I saw Corey said in the press that this is his best Panthers team and I think he’s right. They’re going with 6 D and 11 good forwards plus Kowalski’s back so they’re going to be formidable this year. He’s made some really good additions and the players that he’s brought back are excellent. For me getting Jordy (Fox) back was absolutely essential, for me he was the best player in the league without a doubt. He led our team by 200 hits last year which is astonishing, his face-off percentage was excellent, he was our leading points scorer, he’s good defensively & offensively, he plays powerplay & penalty kill. Anything you want from a player he does, he hits like a train. He’d better not come anywhere near me this year, I’ve told him that as well, him and Matthew (Myers). It’s funny because out of the imports Jordy is my closest friend on the team and Matthew is my closest out the Brits and I guarantee that if I’m going to fight anyone this year it’s going to be them two because they’re going to wind me up for sure. They are a defenceman’s nightmare with the way they finish their hits and their intensity. They’re so tenacious the pair of them so it’s going to be funny playing against them two.
Jono: There’s the new social media rule that has come in for this season. You’re very prominent on Twitter and other players, some new to the country, are also prominent on there. What do you make of it all?
Danny: To be honest with you I don’t know how much of an effect the rule will have. If you’re tweeting two hours before a game when you’re in the room then you’re probably going to get in trouble with your coach before you get in trouble with the league. With regards to the hour after the game, you’re not out of the room after an hour anyway, maybe if you’re on the road possibly. I do agree there needs to be a rule; Twitter has now become a part of everyday life. What people probably don’t understand is that every time you Tweet you’re making your own press release. You wouldn’t expect a club to start slandering the referee in a press release straight after a game so a player shouldn’t either. I don’t really see how it’s going to handcuff guys at all, as I say you’re not getting out of the rink until an hour after the game, I think it’s the right move that the league have made a rule, the NHL have it. There’s been a big thing with Rio Ferdinand in the football and I know there was in the Olympics as well so I think it’s good that the league have recognised that Twitter is part of life and they’re moving with the times. I was fine with it and I certainly don’t think it’s handcuffed anyone but as players I think we do have to take responsibility for what we are saying because as I say, each Tweet is your own press release so if we’re looking to take this sport to the next level we are going to have to start with the professionalism of the players. Guys have to recognise what they are saying and what impact it can have.
Jono: What are your ambitions for this coming season?
Danny: To win the league. For me it’s just that quest to win the league. It’s now in a different jersey and it’s for a different team, but I want to win it, I haven’t won it and it’s something that I continue to do. I’m going to battle every night for Sheffield, every ounce of me that was committed to Panthers is now committed to Sheffield. I’m sure there’s going to be Panthers fans reading this, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful when I say this but I am a Steeler now and I have to be for me, I can’t do anything half-arsed I have to be fully committed to everything and I am fully committed to the Steelers now. My time with Nottingham is over, I don’t know what is going to happen in the future but I have a two year contract with Sheffield. They’ve been extremely good to me the way they’ve looked after me, they offered me a two year contract, and they want me to be part of their team for the long term. At a time when I wasn’t wanted by a club they did want me and I’ll always remember that so everything that I gave to the Panthers I’m now going to give to the Steelers and the commitment that I gave to the club, the players and the fans, that’s all going to Sheffield now. It’s a new start for me and it’s something that I’m really looking forward to embracing because I feel that at 29 years old I’m coming into my prime now.
I wish the Panthers nothing but luck, when I got released I could have handled things a lot differently, I could have shouted my mouth off about the club, Corey and this, that and the other but first and foremost that’s not how I want to conduct myself. I didn’t want to go down that road because I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. I recognise what Nottingham gave to me and I feel that I gave them back the same and I didn’t want to leave on a sour note. Apart from not winning the league I leave with no regrets, my conscience is completely clear because I know that I gave absolutely everything for that club so I can live with myself for that. I show no bitterness towards the club because I’ve had so many highlights, of course I’m upset that I couldn’t have won the league for them, I would have loved to have done that but at the same time my conscience is clear knowing that I couldn’t have given any more and I’m happy with that. I can walk away with my head held high knowing that when I played for the Panthers I did so knowing I was representing them and the city and that’s is what continues me to walk round Nottingham with my head high.
Jono: Controversial question this and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. Do you feel that you have a better chance of winning the title at Sheffield as they as they have the pedigree of winning league championships
Danny: They certainly have the experience don’t they, there’s guys on that team that have the experience. I don’t know, I honestly don’t know. It comforts me that I’m playing alongside guys that have done it before because that was the great thing about the Play-Offs & the Challenge Cup even when we were down in that quarter final against Braehead it was OK because I’d been in those situations in big games with those guys before. In the final against Cardiff, you just knew we were going to win that, well I certainly did. I just knew because I’d been in that situation with those guys so many times, I felt so confident in my team mates. When Beau (David-Alexandre Beauregard) got the puck and scored I knew that was it, there’s a comforting feeling knowing that you’ve got experience of winning a certain trophy and it comforts me that I’ve now got team-mates that have won the league and know what it takes. They’ve got the experience and the guys that haven’t won it have got the hunger and I’ve certainly got the hunger to try and win it.
Do we have a better shot? I don’t know, you look around that conference right now and I’d love to be a bookmaker, I’m not sure what the odds are or who the favourite is right now.
Jono: With Paddy Power Sheffield are favourites, Belfast second favourites and Panthers & Braehead equal third favourites.
Danny: Really? Wow. I don’t know how you could pick. It’s hard isn’t it because with new players you don’t know how they will settle. You take Sean Selmser, when he came over to Coventry he had an incredible CV but things just didn’t work out for him. Then take someone like Matt Francis who no-one knew. I mean Franny was superb last year for the Panthers. CV’s can mean a lot but at the same time, sometimes they don’t and sometimes things just don’t work out for players. They can be great on one team and it doesn’t work out on another team. As regards to who’s going to win and if I stand a better chance with the Steelers, well I suppose I’ll tell you in April mate.
Jono: Final question. In the Future do you ever see yourself back at the Nottingham Panthers in any capacity?
Danny: It’s funny. When I first got released I did an interview with Owen Bradley (Radio Nottingham) and he said will you come back and I said at the time, before I signed in Sheffield, yes, I’ve got to come back, I have to, I’m supposed to be here in Nottingham. Obviously that was me still thinking of myself as a Panther. Right now it wouldn’t be healthy for me to think that because as I said before I’m 100% in anything I do so right now, now that I’ve signed for Sheffield, I can’t see me coming back to Nottingham and I say that because I’m completely committed to Sheffield.
If I was to say ‘you know what, I’m going to come back in four or five years’ then I’d always have that in the back of my mind and I wouldn’t be 100% committed to Sheffield and that’s not right for the ownership, my team-mates or the fans, so as I speak today no, I don’t think I will come back to Nottingham. Can I 100% say that, no I can’t but that’s the frame of mind I need to have. Like I was in Nottingham, everything was Nottingham, I can’t think of anything else I just want to be in Nottingham. Right now it’s Sheffield and that’s all I can think about. You never know what the future is going to hold. I’ll never close the door on Nottingham, I can definitely say that, but regards will I ever come back to Nottingham? I honestly don’t know. For the foreseeable future I’d like to think I’ll be in Sheffield for as long as they want me. I feel like I owe Sheffield, they were there for me and they wanted me on their team, so I’d like to repay that for as long as I can.
I’ll never, ever shut the door on Nottingham but for the foreseeable future I’m a Steeler and I’m going to give them everything that I have.
I’d like to thank Danny for taking the time out to come and do the interview, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a great read.
Constructive comments and feedback are welcome as always.