How former Sheffield Steelers' veteran Mark Thomas wants to see British ice hockey progress
Better links are needed between junior ice hockey clubs and Elite League teams to secure the future of the sport and enable British youngsters to progress.
That's the view of former Sheffield Steelers' defenceman Mark Thomas, who coaches at Manchester Storm Academy.
His comments relate to the demise of the English Premier League in 2017, which restricted clubs to a maximum of five non-British trained players compared to the Elite League's 14.Â The current second flight National Ice Hockey League restricts teams toÂ two non-Brits.
Former Great Britain defencemanThomas, 35, said: "I am involved with Manchester Storm Academy now, where my two young lads play, and part of my role is to forge links with the professional team. I think the EIHL needs to get more ex-pros involved to try and get that link.
'We've got a strong link and that should be the case across the Elite League.
"It's about getting the right people around the table and not mixing hockey and business too much."
Thomas, whose children - Bailey, 10, and Harley, eight - both ice for Storm's junior set-up, added: "When I played the last thing I wanted to do was put my skates back on and skate with the kids but ultimately these kids have got to have a goal.
"The problem is the British lads are not being given a chance and we are potentially losing really talented kids.
"If they were given more of a chance it would improve the national team as well as the league itself."
Thomas' wife Vicky is currently battling against cancer '“ and fans of both Sheffield and Manchester have contributed to a fund-raising drive. Contribute here.
Steelers are in Belfast for a double-header this weekend, having picked up three wins out of four over the festive season, beforeÂ returning to Sheffield to host Dundee on January 12.