Fox: Health and safety has to come first for Sheffield Steelers

Aaron Fox was understandably frustrated when the EIHL responded to the coronavirus issue by prematurely bringing down the curtain on the UK ice hockey season, just as Sheffield Steelers were on a high after winning the Challenge Cup.

Sunday, 15th March 2020, 1:37 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th March 2020, 1:39 pm
Aaron Fox says health and safety is paramount for Sheffield Steelers following the coronavirus outbreak.

Yet he would much rather have seen the season conclude early rather than a single player, staff member or fan become ill because the campaign had continued during the virus outbreak.

The well-being of everyone in the Steeler family and beyond was paramount, he said.

"Health and safety absolutely had to come first," said Fox.

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"The rest of the world seemed to be leading the way and we needed to follow suit."

Many of his imports were beginning to get nervous about the situation well before Friday, when the EIHL cancelled all matches with immediate effect.

Two EIHL teams, Dundee Stars and Belfast Giants, have players in self-isolation.

But the immediate concern to Steelers' imports was the likelihood of not being able to return to their home countries because of global travel restrictions.

Americans Michael Davies and Aaron Brocklehurst were the first to head back over the Atlantic. Plans were then put in place for the likes of Marek Troncinsky, Josef Hrabal and Lucas Sandstrom to fly east.

Fox said all the players had initially been prepared to play in Saturday's scheduled home game against Manchester Storm.

But he revealed: "A few guys were saying last week: 'The way this thing is trending we are looking for flights next week for our family and potentially me.'

"We had a lot of conversations and had the League continued (to play) there would have been no ill-will from my side if guys had needed to go home.

"We would have got by with what we'd got and there would have been no hard feelings."

Fox said the situation quickly ramped up with other countries closing their borders, flights being cancelled and Canada insisting on 14-day isolation periods for travellers returning there.The coach said the club had worked hard to organise quick travel arrangements, with Steelers' Czech players having to beat a deadline to get home.

"Everything changed so quickly" said the American, who will stay in Sheffield over the Summer.

"The situation was so fluid that for 12 hours we were hearing one thing, and then it all changed for the next 12 hours.

"People have families to consider and getting them home became our priority."

Steelers' boss Tony Smith and his advisers were due to meet on Monday to discuss the ever-changing situation - and its impact on finances, recruitment and close season preparations.