NEW signing Paul Sample has been backed to play a key role in the renaissance of the Newcastle Vipers next season.
The Vipers have persuaded the 27-year-old former Sheffield Steeler, who lives in Whitley Bay, to come out of retirement to play for Danny Stewart’s new-look side.
The vastly-experienced forward has played more than 300 Elite League games for the Steelers, the Cardiff Devils and the Belfast Devils, but had hung up his stick to pursue a career in the leisure industry.
Now he is back to play the locker-room leader in a much-changed Vipers side which is hoping to improve on last season’s disappointing showing.
General manager Jaimie Longmuir said. “We are delighted to get Paul – he is exactly the type of character and player we wanted and he will be a big addition for us.
“Losing the likes of David Longstaff was a big blow to the organisation, but bringing in Paul is a huge signing for us.
“We were looking for a top Brit and he has a wealth of experience which will serve us very well.
“He won two trophies with Belfast and just as big for us is the fact he is a local lad, so he understands the area and he will be able to hit the ground running for us.
“Paul will be a superb character to have around the locker room, and he will play a big part in helping the new imports and new recruits blend in.”
The capture of Sample ends a two-year pursuit which had begun under former head coach Rob Wilson.
Longmuir added: “We have tried to sign Paul before but the timing just was not right.
“This time we met him two weeks ago and from that moment Danny wanted to complete the deal.
“I think he just saw someone who would be prepared to commit to the organisation 100% – both on and off the ice.”
The Vipers have already signed Canadian utility man Blair Stayzer and are hopeful of making another addition before the end of the week.
Longmuir said: “The recruitment side of things is entirely up to Danny and I know he has some very exciting plans. He wants to build a team rather than bring in a few star names and he is prepared to be patient.
“There will be a lot of players who are available this summer and it is about bringing in the right players for the Newcastle Vipers.”