Do you fancy ice hockey switching to Thursday nights?

British ice hockey, at its highest level, has never had the profile it craves.

Friday, 3rd June 2022, 10:45 am

That's despite the fact the game is the most-watched of the UK’s indoor sports.

Read More

Read More
Sheffield Steelers target marquee signing to rival Belfast Giants’ capture

Yet few national or regional newspapers, national radio or independent, journalistic websites, bother to exploit that.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

In a recent investigation of sport national popularity, ice hockey was rated ninth in our country, behind the likes of badminton and rowing.

There are obvious local exceptions.

Sheffield has the Steelers and a country-leading average of 6,083 fans per game at the Arena.

That's better than all but five of the soccer teams in League Two.

Premier Sports TV coverage - a new day in the calendar.

Last season, Steelers went from 28th to sixth place in the European attendance rankings.

In our city, we liked to think the media serves the sport well, with Radio Sheffield, daily newspaper and occasional local TV coverage.

The Star's reporting will continue through the barren ice months of the summer, as it has since 1991.

Elite League opponents Belfast Giants - a club that is on an admirable mission to bring all sides of the community together - gets tremendous backing from the Northern Ireland media.

Steelers night - pic by Dean Woolley.

I imagine newspaper readers in Nottingham, Manchester, and Cardiff would love to have what Belfast fans get.

So eight months ago, when the EIHL announced they had signed a deal with Premier Sports TV, the omens were good for better publicity across the board.

Premier has made a decent job of coverage and will be the headline sponsors of the Elite League for the next two years, having made a meaningful financial contribution that is up on last season's payment.

Their on-screen presentation will be modified, this coming season, as I understand it.

EIHL hockey.

They intend to screen games on Thursday nights, the idea being it may attract some of the sporting audience distracted on Wednesday by football.

All 10 EIHL teams will be screened on a Thursday, throughout the 2022-23 campaign, which might raise a few eyebrows from those who like their sport at the weekends.

Football fans tend to think Thursday night football is a bit naff.

So it is a bold move by Premier - and for Steelers' fans who don't travel to away rinks – and the new package might well appeal.

The channel also broadcasts NHL, Swedish Hockey League and games from the Kontinental League, although Russia's invasion of Ukraine might change the latter.

Premier Sports also broadcasts live coverage of the World Championships; they know their stuff. We wish them well, with their Thursday venture.

We won't know a lot more about Premier's precise programming until the Elite fixtures are announced, probably on July 1.

The season starts on Friday, September 9 - unless that changes to Thursday.

I understand Steelers will host Nottingham Panthers on Boxing Day this year and another team will visit South Yorkshire on New Year's Eve.

Generally, Steelers will be hoping to cater to school holiday audiences in October, December, February and April.

The Play Off final weekend is listed for April 15-16.

After last season's soul-destroying quarter final loss to Dundee Stars, it will be imperative that Sheffield play in that last weekend of the season.

Dundee's Charlie Combs, a player every EIHL club including Sheffield would be interested in, won't be there again, as he has made it clear he favours a move overseas.

Odense Bulldogs are taking the lead, if you pardon the pun. don't get gems like that on TV!

Do you like the idea of Thursday night ice hockey? Let me know your thoughts by tweeting me: @westerdale10.