The million dollar question for Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox

Coach Aaron Fox is steeling himself for some potentially challenging conversations with overseas clubs who are providing a new home and security for players from last season's Sheffield roster.

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 11:06 am
Updated Thursday, 10th December 2020, 11:27 am

The Steelers' boss will want as many of his last-term players back in the line up as possible, should the EIHL secure the hoped-for £4m Government funding for a covid-secure new year tournament in England.

High on his priority list, of course, will be the Brits plying their trade abroad.

The nature of each British skater's individual contract will doubtless have varying elements.

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But Fox accepts that there has to be fairness involved from the Sheffield side - the foreign clubs, after all, have splashed out money and won't want to start the recruitment process all over again.

The Europe-based Brits have certainly had a range of experiences.

Davey Phillips has played 12 games for his Hungarian employers, Dunaújvárosi Acélbikák.

What price Robert Dowd?

Jonathan Phillips was eight games into his time in Germany with EHF Passau Black Hawks until Thursday's announcement that he and Sheffield team-mate Anthony DeLuca had been released.

Cole Shudra has had four games under his belt at Nittorps IK, Sweden.

While star winger Robert Dowd has iced three at Eppan in Italy.

Fox says: "Those types of conversations (with players and their clubs) are going to be very important for us.

"Will we be able to get Robert Dowd out of his contract: if it is a really expensive ask are we going to be able to do it in this current environment?

"We have a good core of Brits that are out right now. It is very fluid"

The coach said that negotiations would be attempted only when Steelers are sure the new year tournament will take place, with the Government money safely in the bank.

"When we know for sure that we are going and I have that conversation with the team...what are the (overseas) teams' expectations financially from us, to release the player?

"That's the million dollar question, you don't have a two-week-out clause in Germany where they can put their two weeks (notice) in and get released free and clear.

"You might get a team that says; 'We spent this on the flight, this on equipment, paid this on their salary' and then the big thing is that these guys are playing (in countries) where the play offs are the big one.

"The clubs are paying them to develop them to be ready for the play offs so for them to pay them for two months and then not benefit during the part of the year that matters, there might be some financial cost that comes with that."

Fox said observing fairness was important to the Sheffield management, in terms of their dealings with overseas teams.

The American coach was brought in to the South Yorkshire club mainly on his reputation for recruitment - so his reputation for personal integrity is a strong one.

*The EIHL has supported the move for a new single governing body for the sport of ice hockey in the UK.

The proposal involves streamlining the existing bodies by creating a single new 'National Governing Body.'

The EIHL stated: "Having a coordinated approach across the country can only be a good thing for the future of the sport, and the EIHL would look forward to working with the new NGB and opening the channels of communication to ensure we drive our sport forward under a unified approach."

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