Tony Smith hopes 7,000 Sheffield Arena fans will be celebrating a winning start to the new Steelers era tomorrow.
A home victory over grand slammers Nottingham Panthers in the shiny, newly-renovated Arena would be the perfect way to usher in the new Doug Christiansen regime.
And Smith believes his side a has a good chance - he thinks Christiansen has markedly improved the squad.
“We estimate around 7,000 fans- we have aggressively promoted ourselves,” says Smith. “We have sent out 100,000 leafglets since the beginning of August in places like Beighton, Southall, Mosborough and Intake. We’re getting the word around everywhere we can. This weekend will be a marker for how we compare with sides who will be near the top all season.
“Personally I think we have upgraded this year, particularly in goaltending (Frank Doyle replacing John DeCaro). We have better combinations and better blends.
“But what I think the fans will warm to most is the fact the players stand up for each other. In the pre-season games, they were ready to stand up for each other. If there was the slightest altercation, they’d all be over there.”
Smith says he wouldn’t want to “meet Tim Spencer in a dark alley” - a reference to the physical aggression the towering winger will be expected to unleash if his side is in danger of being intimidated.
But neither does he expect that brute force alone will deliver the points needed to top the Elite Division.
“We want a winning team - but we want one that really connects with the fans. The team has to be entertaining - something special,” he said.
Steelers, who have decided against recruiting 23-year-old Slovakian trialist Milan Canky, will continue to enjoy the backroom support of Neil Abel.
The former assistant coach has been given several roles, including liaising with Sheffield junior players.
Meanwhile, Christiansen has forgiven Spencer for failing to return with the rest of the team from training camp in eastern Europe. He’d left his passport in a kitbag in the team’s equipment van - so had to wait for it to be returned. “It was an honest mistake. It’s good to have Tim back with us now,” Christiansen said.
n Steelers start the season tonight at Coventry Blaze, the team that recruited Ashley Tait after his release by Christiansen.