Josef Hrabal may still be back for Sheffield Steelers despite return to Czech Republic

Josef Hrabal has left Sheffield to return to his home town team - but fans may yet see him in a Steelers' shirt again.
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The mobile Czech defencemen was recruited by Aaron Fox last December and became an authoritative influence over the next 19 League and two Challenge Cup games.

He had the fourth best plus-minus statistic at the club (a player is awarded a "plus" each time he is on the ice when his side scores and a minus when they concede.)

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Steelers would have wanted him back but understood his decision to return to his home side of HC ZUBR Prerov in the Czech Second National Hockey League.

Josef HrabalJosef Hrabal
Josef Hrabal

His wife is pregnant and with the continuing uncertainty over travel arrangements and when leagues will re-open across the world, he made a sensible family decision.

However, players frequently insist on a 'get-out' clause in their contracts.

And, given the fact that the former Czech international enjoyed his time in the EIHL, it is possible he might return at some point.

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The situation around his Czech mates at Sheffield, Marek Troncinsky and Tomas Duba, is equally interesting.

Like Hrabal, Troncinsky arrived late for the season, making his debut in a cup match against Nottingham Panthers in October.

He was very skilled offensively, with 12 goals and 30 assists, and second only to Tanner Eberle in the plus minus ratio.

Many regard him as a 'must' in terms of player re-signing - and so far he has not committed to any other team.

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Goaltender Tomas Duba turns 39 years old on July 2 and few people would have expected him to spend more than a single season at Sheffield Arena.

But his overall form and delight at being part of the Challenge Cup winning side suggests he might finish his career with the club this coming term.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic may be receding in many parts of the UK and Europe, but indoor sports appear particularly troublesome to many government decision-makers.

EIHL clubs cannot afford "to do a Premier League" and play games behind closed doors.

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Therefore it is by no means certain that the planned "Magic Weekend" in Nottingham (October 3 and 4) and even the scheduled Continental Cup group tournament mission in Asiago, Italy (November 13-15) will go ahead.

But Steelers say they are keeping their fingers crossed.