Hopes for January start for Sheffield Steelers and Sheffield Steeldogs look to be dashed

Hopes of a January start for English ice hockey teams in the top two flights look like being dashed - with sights now being set on February instead.

Monday, 21st December 2020, 1:01 pm

Sheffield Steelers and Sheffield Steeldogs had hoped their respective EIHL and NIHL divisions would start in a slimmed-down league soon into the new year.

While English clubs are expecting to have little difficulty in filling their rosters in time, they have yet to fully meet all the criteria needed to persuade the Government to follow through on their promises of cash bail-outs.

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The English EIHL clubs have re-submitted their proposals to Sport England and are now waiting to head towards the next stage.

Steelers' owner and EIHL chief Tony Smith remains confident that action will resume, although his projected start date of January now seems extremely unlikely.

Steeldogs are also hoping their share of government funds will bring hockey back to iceSheffield, but they may have to accept a mid-February start.

Last Friday, the English Ice Hockey Association announced they had secured from the £1.2m for the three NIHL divisions.

Steelers on iceSheffield's pad

The league says it must now "work through the detail to understand the form and allocation of the funding to model the impact that it will have on NIHL National clubs."

They will have to satisfy themselves whether the money will be a grant or a loan, something the EIHL had to do.

They also want clarity on precise conditions attached to the money and how much is available to each club, although it is not clear how many clubs will be able to play.

Updated information "will feed into our planning which is currently underway across the other key parts of putting on a league competition such as fan attendance rules, team participation, fixtures and league wide Covid safety protocols" said the NIHL.

If the go-ahead is given for the EIHL and NIHL, then both Sheffield clubs will have to get their heads together over rink availability, as both teams will aim to play out of iceSheffield.

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