How Sheffield Steelers did better off the ice than on it

Sheffield Steelers' season wasn't good enough, admits the club's owner.
Tony Smith and GB marksman Robert DowdTony Smith and GB marksman Robert Dowd
Tony Smith and GB marksman Robert Dowd

Yet that hasn't stopped the Orange Army of fans showing their close season support in snapping up season tickets in impressive numbers, for the 2023-24 term.

Proprietor Tony Smith has mixed feelings about where the club lies, after failing to win any trophies in the last campaign.

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"From a hockey perspective I guess the report on the table is 'Must do better'" he said.

Robert Dowd on the mark for Great Britain, picture Dean WoolleyRobert Dowd on the mark for Great Britain, picture Dean Woolley
Robert Dowd on the mark for Great Britain, picture Dean Woolley

"But from a different position, on the business side, it is excellent... top marks all round.

"We hit every target, smashed every number we were looking to beat.

"The club itself is flying, as are season tickets.

"We have sold 2,200 compared to around 1,700-1,800 this time last year."

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Smith was crestfallen when his side lost in the Play Off semi finals to Cardiff Devils last month but revealed he had been more shocked by the 6-7 aggregate Challenge Cup exit to Fife Flyers back in February.

"Some games you expect to win and there are others you hope you are going to win.

"I didn't expect the Fife loss. I thought we could get through to the final."

Attendances were marginally down at the Arena year-on-year (average 6,693 in 2021-22, 6,657 in 2022-23) in EIHL regular games.

"That surprised me," said Smith.

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"You have to look at the state of the economy though. Looking back, if we'd have stayed at the same level or thereabouts, it's a win.

"As for spend-per-head, then I'd say we were well up on previous seasons.

"We are getting great feedback from people in general, it seems a lot of people 'found' ice hockey this year.

"We might look back and see (attendance) figures have dropped but inflation went up 10 percent and fuel bills killed people from March onwards.

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"This time last year we were worried how bad is it going to impact our businesses. But most clubs' attendances have increased."

Meanwhile, Steelers' Robert Dowd was on target as Great Britain beat Lithuania 3-0 on Tuesday evening at Nottingham, in the World Championships.

Cade Neilson and Nathanael Halbert got the others.

Swinton goaltender Ben Bowns recorded his second shut out of the tournament, blocking 28 shots in a formidable performance.

The Cardiff Devils' man executed a fine save from Ugnius Cizas when GB were 2-0 to help pave the way for victory.

Remaining fixtures: Wednesday 3rd May v Romania, Friday 5th May v Italy.