Italians make playful bid for Sheffield Steeler
Italian club Eppan have made a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to Robert Dowd that he should quit Sheffield Steelers for them.
The Great Britain winger temporarily played for the South Tyrol team when Covid closed down the EIHL.
He was a revelation overseas, scoring 24 points in 13 league games and four points in three play off matches.
Dowd remains on close terms with Eppan, who helped him gain match fitness before he played for Great Britain in the World Championships.
And, despite his Arena contract, they have jokingly tried to coax their 2020-21 top scorer to ice for them, not Sheffield next year!
Dowd's last 18 months - where he has managed to keep playing the sport despite lockdown, have certainly been a roller-coaster.
"It's been a very strange one, I never thought what happened was on the cards for me, but our (EIHL) season kept getting pushed back and I was getting a horrible feeling in my stomach that it wasn't going to go" he said.
"It wasn't really an option for me, not to play.
"Obviously my season before was cut short (injury) so I had to play and had to start looking at Europe.
"It seemed like I'd pretty much signed for a club in Sweden, then Vally (Sheffield team-mate Marco Vallerand) called me at daft o'clock one night. He said he'd played in Italy before, and that you get looked after, and asked me if I wanted to come with him as they were looking for another forward?
"I said: 'Absolutely.' It was nice as I wasn't going to move the family away with me as it was only a six month contract, and I'd hoped Sheffield would come back to normal, I didn't want to take the little one out of school and the wife to stop working.
"Having somebody there with me was awesome so I said; 'Thank you but no thank you' to Sweden, and ended up going to Italy."
Dowd instantly fell in love with northern Italy.
"What a beautiful place, what good people - I really enjoyed my time there," said Dowd, who was housed in a vineyard.
"Ok, it wasn't the best hockey (standards) I have ever played, I suppose it was a bit like the NIHL only a bit faster and with better skaters.
"They'd had to rebuild, they'd lost something like 23 players in the last two years, they had retired or moved on.
"Eppan were really struggling when I got there, they'd lost every game they had played and were looking at bottom place, so to go there and make a big difference and pretty much climb up the table to fifth from 12th or something like that was nice to help out good people.
"They gave me a chance to get back in shape. I am really thankful, they were awesome with me.
"I still message back and forth with some of the boys who played there and some of the ownership as well, they send me cheeky messages asking me whether I am sure I want to be in Sheffield next season as they wanted me back! I said: 'Thanks, but not next year!' "