Ice Hockey: Steelers chief wants to up crowds

Coach Doug Christiansen, left, with Steelers owner Tony Smith.
Coach Doug Christiansen, left, with Steelers owner Tony Smith.
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Doug Christiansen’s challenge at Sheffield Steelers next season won’t just be about delivering titles - he will be tasked to put 5,500 spectators into the Arena too.

That’s the average bums-on-seats number which owner Tony Smith wants to see the club achieve as Christiansen puts a new team on the ice.

Last season, Steelers attracted 4,700 fans into the building on average - a decent figure when compared to most other sports - including some grounds in the Football League.

The figure was swelled by the fact the Conference system was introduced, which saw Steelers playing Nottingham Panthers, Cardiff Devils, Belfast Giants and Coventry Blaze more often than previously in league-fare.

Smith said: “We were in the top 60 or so (hockey) teams in Europe but we are behind Nottingham -and that’s the level, as I have said before, we have to aspire to now. Neil Black (Notts owner) has had about 17 years longer than me to get to their average!”

Smith, who has set a budget next year which will be the envy of most Elite teams, said he had hoped numbers through the gate last season would have been impressive enough to attract more media attention to the sport.

“I saw Tanya Arnold banging away about rugby every night on BBC Look North, which seems a bit one-sided coverage, but I suppose rugby has more money and hype,” he said.

Smith said season tickets were up 30 per cent on this time in the last close season.There was a “buzz” about preparations for the new season, he said.

Rod Sarich is unlikely to retain his place in next year’s line-up, according to speculation.