Don't rule out two popular Sheffield Steelers making a shock return - Bob Westerdale

It's a long shot - but bear with me on this...
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Is there a chance, at the latter end of the upcoming season, that popular Steelers' forwards Anthony DeLuca, 27, and Tanner Eberle, 28, - seemingly lost to the club at this point - will be pulling on orange jerseys again?

DeLuca disappeared back to north America after a random UK drugs test found cannabis in his system, last November.

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Eberle is getting married this Summer and that causes an obvious complication as his wife has work responsibilities on the other side of the Atlantic.

Anthony DeLuca, just a few days before he was suspended over drugs in his system. Picture: Dean WoolleyAnthony DeLuca, just a few days before he was suspended over drugs in his system. Picture: Dean Woolley
Anthony DeLuca, just a few days before he was suspended over drugs in his system. Picture: Dean Woolley

So as things stand at the moment, you won't be seeing either when Sheffield face off at Nottingham Panthers, in an exhibition game on Saturday 27th of August.

But don't rule out either of these wingers joining the party late.

Let's look at DeLuca first.

He has now officially started his three-month suspension over the banned substances in his blood.

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The Star understands he will be free to play for any team that will have him from the third week in September.

So he could be an option for Steelers' coach Aaron Fox, if a player leaves (like Travis Oleksuk did last season after just eight games) or a forward gets injured (as Brendan Connolly did last November.)

The question will be whether DeLuca's drugs' indiscretion is deemed that big a deal in the great scheme of things - would the club accept the athlete had made an error of judgment and move on?

Would the sponsors and the fan base want to see the return of the player, who iced for two ECHL clubs after leaving the UK?

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Would it be plain-sailing to organise a work permit for a player who left this country under such circumstances?

Steelers certainly missed his muscular frame in the latter part of the season, but there are bridges to cross.

We will see.

Eberle, I imagine, will re-start his hockey career in north America, possibly in the ECHL, for season 2022-23.

But if things have not gone well in the Sheffield line-up, for whatever reason, it is more than possible that the door would be left open for him at Sheffield Arena.

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Sheffield team-mate Brendan Connolly has already said that he'd love to try and persuade Eberle back into the fold.

But it would be a tough ask.

The situation will be clearer when Fox has completed his Summer recruitment programme.

According to his present roster, he has two goaltenders, three defencemen and seven forwards to find - although it is widely known that five signings within that group are in the bag.

The shopping around for imports continues elsewhere in the EIHL.

Kalamazoo Wings centre Tanner Sorenson has signed for Nottingham Panthers saying he is looking forward to playing in front of a "rowdy" fan base and winning silverware.