Sheffield rallies around its second-tier ice hockey club amid doubts over its survival

Around 700 ice hockey fans showed their support for under-threat Sheffield Steeldogs with a protest aimed at reminding the sport's administrators that the club and its supporters won't go quietly.
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Steeldogs' future is up in the air - as is the progression chain of youngsters coming through the junior ranks - after some NIHL bosses opposed the potential sale of the club to EIHL Sheffield Steelers.

It is clear some influential proprietors don't want that to happen - and as a result, no fixtures for the forthcoming season have been announced as no one seems to know how many teams there will be in the division.

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Steelers' legend and Steeldogs' coach-elect Jason Hewitt, whose players skated at a well-attended practice session at iceSheffield on Tuesday night - admitted it was a frustrating time.

Steeldogs fight for survival picture by Peter BestSteeldogs fight for survival picture by Peter Best
Steeldogs fight for survival picture by Peter Best

"The one thing nobody is talking about right now is the fact that there are 15 plus players left in limbo right now" he said.

"If these 15 players have to be looking to play elsewhere there is a knock-on effect on other teams, teams below us start dropping down the pecking order, and development is hit, and all because of what seems a personal battle.

"It would be a tragedy if Dogs fell out of the league. IceSheffield is a place where people aspire to go on and play for Steelers or move in whatever pathway they want."

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"We had hoped to prepare well for this season," said Hewitt.

Jason Hewitt Steeldogs pic by Peter BestJason Hewitt Steeldogs pic by Peter Best
Jason Hewitt Steeldogs pic by Peter Best

"We would have liked to have signed another import, everything has been on hold for two months, it's just a mess really."

Hewitt said the NIHL's fixtures are normally out by now - further evidence of the turmoil affecting second-flight ice hockey.

"I don't see how they can take it (Steeldogs) away. I don't see the politics of it all.

"How can you take it away from people?"

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The coach added: "I can only hope everybody sees sense and can work together to do the right thing.

"Personally, I have no issue with the sale of the club to Steelers.

I have a good relationship with Tony Smith and Shaun (ownership) and the organisation.

"They want to put a pipeline connecting the Academy, Steeldogs, and the Steelers - and that would be good for kids coming through."

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Hewitt said the Steeldogs roster was "a proper close-knit group, some of the lads have been together since they were kids, it is an honest hard-working place and management here do all we can to make us successful.

"We may be a small fish in this league but we have a core of players who can do some damage.

"We have some fun but when it comes to match days we treat it as if it is our full-time jobs."