Josef Hrabal happy to join Sheffield Steelers ' "Covid bubble"

Josef Hrabal is swapping a charming, Alpine lakeland in Austria for the steel city of Sheffield - and he couldn't be happier.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 11:03 am

The Czech defenceman is returning to Steelers for the upcoming EIHL series, starting on Saturday, April 3.

He played 19 league games for Sheffield last season before the action was locked down because of Covid 19.

This season, he has played for his local side HC Prerov in the Czech second flight before a spell at Villacher SV.

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That term ended when the Austrian side lost their play off series to Klagenfurt.

So when Steelers' coach Aaron Fox asked him to return to England, for the five-week series, he was delighted to oblige.

It is good to feel wanted - and Hrabal had nothing but good memories of his time at Sheffield Arena.

"I am really happy coming back," he told The Star. "I watched news around the leagues and was sad that you (in the UK) have been without hockey all year.

Sheffield Steelers' Josef Hrabal. Pic: Dean Woolley.

"I started playing in my home town in Czech Republic and it was great.

"I could be home every day and have many friends in that club; so it was a lot of fun.

"Then I got a chance to join Villach to try to make the play offs and we did, so it was a perfect time. Villach is an amazing city with mountains, lakes and rivers all around and it was exactly what I wanted."

Now he will be joining fellow Czech Josef Mikyska, who will be making his debut for Steelers, against Nottingham Panthers.

"I didn't know Josef before but we've had few phone calls and "think we will be friends soon!"

Hrabal and his colleagues will have their own "bubble" to give them the best chance of staying safe from the coronavirus.

While most of the other skaters involved, those playing for Panthers, Coventry Blaze and Manchester Storm are thought to be staying in hotel accommodation in Nottingham, Steelers players will return to their own city after games.

The club's imports and British players from outside the region will be based in Sheffield city centre for the duration of the tournament, which features some 24 games in total, culminating in a best-of-three Playoff Final series.

Steelers will be closely following EIHL and Government guidance and protocols which include regular testing.

Players will be expected to wear masks when not playing and, at the Nottingham rink, they will be restricted solely to two delegated dressing rooms when not on the pad or walking to and from the team bus.

Steelers' forwards Brendan Connolly and Robert Dowd will be available for the start of the Elite Series, having been released by their clubs in America and Italy.