Ice hockey players having to raid their savings, says Sheffield Steelers' ace

The bank balance has taken a bit of a hammering for those Elite League ice hockey players who have yet to source new employment in countries where the game is still being played.

By Bob Westerdale
Thursday, 8th October 2020, 2:10 pm

Sheffield Steelers this week helped orchestrate the temporary transfer of Robert Dowd and Marco Vallerand to Italian club Eppan, who are now back on the ice.

It is satisfying to see the EIHL duo keep their hand in while earning a living at the same time.

And Eppan say the years of experience which the Great Britain regular and the Canadian hotshot both possess will not just reinforce their team but help develop their younger players.

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The pair's Steelers' team-mate John Armstrong has yet to declare his hand about what might lie ahead for him, but it's clear he has endured the same uncertain times as everybody else in UK hockey.

"I think this summer has been tough for everyone; I’m sure my teammates would agree," the centreman told The Star.

"We’ve been living in limbo for six months now and we’re not sure when that limbo will end.

"So, you can imagine how hard it is to plan things when everything is up in the air.

"Even basic questions like where we should live (with family - or renting and if renting for how long) or whether we should be preparing to get jobs in our home town, are hard to answer at this point," said the 32-year-old Canadian, recently.

"Many of us have had to dip into our savings more than we would have liked.

"But I am sure that’s the case for people in all sorts of industries around the world. I think that most of us miss the game and will come back hungrier than ever."

John Armstrong - hugely influential in cup final win

Armstrong's last contribution to the EIHL season came during a dramatic face off in South Wales when he selflessly hurled himself on the puck in the final seconds of the Challenge Cup Final to run down the clock.

The ploy worked at the cost of a minor penalty and Steelers went on to secure the scintillating win over Cardiff Devils.

"I remember the play really well," he says.

"There was only a few seconds left and I thought by laying on the puck I would run out the clock.

"In my opinion in the last few seconds of the game, anything goes.

"I will take a penalty, dive on the puck, or do whatever it takes to win the game. When it was all over, I was extremely excited followed by complete exhaustion and relief!"

Armstrong believes Aaron Fox's side will emerge better than ever, when the coronavirus epidemic is eventually over.

"I think the Steelers will come back stronger than ever," he forecast.

"Foxy will build on the success that he has already had. I love the Steelers and hope to be a part of their future."

*Cardiff Devils' Canadian forward Blair Riley has retired from the professional game. Kansas City Mavericks have signed forward Dylan Malmquist from Nottingham Panthers.

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