Bumper crowd expected as Sheffield Steelers return home once more

Steelers are on course for a bumper festive crowd as the team returns from five matches on the road.
Crunch time for Jonathan Phillips. (Derek Black)Crunch time for Jonathan Phillips. (Derek Black)
Crunch time for Jonathan Phillips. (Derek Black)

Sheffield have already sold 9,000 seats for the Boxing Day game against Nottingham Panthers and are now offering the remaining 300 restricted views.

With around 7,000 tickets sold for tonight’s (Wednesday) home game against Dundee Stars, that is quite some achievement at a time of hardship for families.

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While the team is playing well, back room officials have been busy filling the rink.

Owner Tony Smith said: "I said from day one that if we fill the building everything else will sort itself out.

"Our 6,200 average (1,000 more than Belfast Giants and Nottingham Panthers) is up on last year and when you take into account the economic situation right now, that is a massive achievement.

"But no attendance is totally acceptable until we get to capacity.

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"We are very secure financially and will continue to build in all different areas, marketing and merchandise, and ticket sales."

Jonathan Phillips on the chase. (Derek Black)Jonathan Phillips on the chase. (Derek Black)
Jonathan Phillips on the chase. (Derek Black)

Smith certainly does not take fan loyalty for granted.

"With the cost of living and fuel bills going up, we have had to work hard and push buttons and crowd has responded.

"There is euphoria for Steelers, and that's to do with the team and a lot of marketing and promotions off the ice.

"For some reason people want to come here and dress in orange!"

Steelers v Panthers from last Christmas.Steelers v Panthers from last Christmas.
Steelers v Panthers from last Christmas.
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Jonathan Phillips was injured at Glasgow Clan last Saturday and his absence underlined his importance to the club, says Smith.

"Jonno has been our team captain for a long time for a reason, and it is the same with Great Britain.

"He is a massive influence on and off the ice, you can't replace that.

"He might be in, should we say, the twilight of his career but I am sure he can go for another season after this."

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Smith said he loved watching Phillips show his expertise on the power play.

"That's a role where you know he is going to be shutting players down in their zone rather than ours and giving his tam-mates a breather. He is very important to us."