How will Sheffield Steelers and other EIHL clubs cope post lockdown?
Elite League ice hockey is going to have to watch the pennies as they emerge from the near financial catastrophe caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
But Sheffield Steelers owner Tony Smith believes fans will witness a post-pandemic rebirth of their club in what could turn out to be a memorable 2021-22 season.
Steelers this week announced the signing of ex NHLer Justin Hodgman, who will be at the higher end of the club's salary scale.
That's some commitment considering the club has lost around £250,000 in revenue since the full domestic programme was put on ice in March 2020.
Steelers took part in a mini series in April/May, but that had a neutral outcome in financial terms, the money earned from streaming and government assistance was swallowed up by the tournament itself.
Inside the ice hockey community, there is growing speculation over how EIHL clubs will exercise their diligence and caution when it comes to spending in the coming season.
IIH rules say teams can have 22 players on the roster.
But that seems a stretch given post-Covid finances.
Nobody knows for sure what, if any, coronavirus restrictions will be in place at EIHL arenas and rinks from September.
There is also the question that even if there is no crowd socially-distancing, will all the fans want to come back?
According to some sources, EIHL team rosters will feature 14 imports and five Brits next season.
In the 2019-20 campaign, clubs rostered the same amount, plus three under-23 Brits.
Smith declined to go into any detail about exact plans, presumably they are still being discussed at EIHL board level.
But the EIHL chairman and Sheffield businessman insisted: "Next season will be a great spectacle and will certainly be value for money - that's 100 percent.
"I think in many ways this will be our finest season, as a club, one when everything comes together.
"We have worked very hard over the last 10 years (as an ownership) and we believe fans will come back from lockdown and will continue to buy into what we are trying to achieve.
"It will, I believe, be our finest year given where we have all been, after such a tough lockdown" said Smith.
"To close a business like Sheffield Steelers for a year - it was unprecedented. Now we are getting ready to come back and think we'll have a treat for the fans."