How do you solve a problem like Belfast Giants?

Sheffield Steelers will be hoping some of the top minds in the city will help them solve the riddle of how to catch up with Belfast Giants.
Oskar Ostlund, picture by Dean WoolleyOskar Ostlund, picture by Dean Woolley
Oskar Ostlund, picture by Dean Woolley

The Northern Ireland club has monopolised EIHL hardware in recent times.

Much of that is the way the EIHL champions recruit players, coaxing them over them with the lure of educational packages, says Steelers' owner Tony Smith.

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Goalie Oskar Östlund was scheduled to study at Sheffield last season but it never happened for the injured Swede.

Zack Fitzgerald, university graduate, picture: Dean WoolleyZack Fitzgerald, university graduate, picture: Dean Woolley
Zack Fitzgerald, university graduate, picture: Dean Woolley

Steelers now want to accelerate that off-ice inducement, with both the University of Sheffield and Hallam places.

"We have got to look at Belfast and find what gives them the edge," said Smith.

"They have found something that gives them an advantage over Sheffield, something that was not there years ago.

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"I am due to talk to Hallam and hook up with Professor Conor Moss, hoping they are going to help us."

Smith says they want to revive a dormant understanding with Hallam as well as the University of Sheffield.

"We have got to lean on everybody we can to recruit the best team we can" said the owner.

"Sheffield Uni went out of their way to help us, they moved heaven and earth to find the right place and course for our players.

"Oskar bowed out which is want we didn't want to see.

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"Now we'd love to see a couple of players each at Sheffield and Hallam, maybe three in Hallam.

None of last season's team had shown interest in that sort of package for 2023-24, said Smith.

"These courses have been hugely successful for players in the past like Dustin Kohn, Drew Fata, Gord Baldwin, and Zack Fitzgerald.

"I think Belfast have a different model to us and we have to see what they are doing that is different to us.

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"It is definitely University degrees that are helping them and we have to equal what they are doing.

"Sheffield is one of biggest cities in the UK and we shouldn't be struggling to match them, we need to ask for more help."

Smith admires how Giants made the most of their academic tie-ups.

"I have to say Belfast did recruit better, they won the treble, nobody can argue with that.

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"There can't be any excuses over why we are not the best in the country; we have been the best in the past.

"We have got to find a way to get back on that spot.

"On the ice, we held our own against a lot of the teams, or did better, but we couldn't beat the Belfast model, that's the challenge next season."