How Sheffield Steelers will be repaid after helping players leave for abroad

Tony Smith believes that the loyalty shown by his Sheffield Steelers club in finding jobs for players during the pandemic is already being repaid.

By Bob Westerdale
Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 4:45 pm

Coach Aaron Fox has been working hard to find spots abroad for players during the Elite League lockdown.

The latest to find a berth were Marco Vallerand and Robert Dowd, who are heading to Italian second league side Eppan.

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Both were happy to extend their contracts at Sheffield, meaning they will return to the arena as soon as the EIHL reconvenes.

Smith, the club's owner, said: "I think the players that are moving appreciate the fact that we are managing to find them some work for 12 months or six months.

"We have done deals that will also see them come back to us.

"I think players have got an idyllic life in Sheffield, particularly the Brits. They love the lifestyle in Sheffield, I am sure they love playing for the Steelers."

Smith is pressing the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for some fresh guidance about when they can press ahead with ice hockey at the top level.

At the moment, there seems little hope of the suggested new year tournament involving half the EIHL teams.

"Will the government have a change of heart and a re-think on how damaging it is on the economy?" asked Smith

"At some point if we don't get it sorted out there will be very little economy left."

Coach Fox is pleased that his two "premium players" are heading to northern Italy.

"I’m really looking forward to having them back with us next year but in saying that it’s also very disappointing that we are in this position still here that they have to look outside the UK to play hockey.”

Dowd, whose season was blighted by injury last season, said: “I’m excited for this new challenge with Eppan, it was important that I played this season and didn’t have a year off.

Marco Vallerand and his Steeler buddies

“I was very happy to meet with Tony and Aaron and sort out a new deal with the Steelers though before leaving. I think everyone knows how much playing for the club means to me and I want to leave a mark, a legacy here in Sheffield.

“The club has always treated me well and for them to grant me a testimonial at the end of the 2022 season is both kind and generous. I will miss playing in front of our crazy fans and seeing the arena packed.

"For now though Vally and I head to Eppan to give our best for that club and to try and lift a trophy there as we did last year with the Steelers.”

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