Sheffield Steelers aim for top 20 in European crowd rankings
Business was booming for Sheffield Steelers before the coronavirus epidemic cut the ice hockey season off at its knees.
IIHF wide figures released this week show the Challenge Cup winners had moved seven places up the European rankings of the top attended clubs.
Steelers, who launched their domestic season with 8,461 fans watching them wallop Nottingham Panthers 8-4, are now ranked 28th across the continent- and have a stated aim of making it into the top 20 some time in the future.
Overall, an average of 6,610 "fanatical" fans attended Steelers' fixtures at the Arena this season.
That was ahead of Nottingham, who also impressed with a 5,504 average gate, giving them a continent-wide placing of 49th.
Belfast Giants came 80th in the list with 4,387.
So Steelers lead the way - and on average pull in twice as many supporters as the Elite League average of 3,043.
Aaron Fox's offensive line-up attracted more than the average attendance in the American Hockey League 5,543, which is another feather in their cap.
Overall, the EIHL was ranked eighth in overall attendances, an increase of 6.8% from last year - Great Britain’s successful performances in the IIHF Ice Hockey World
Championships being partly responsible for that, according to the IIHF.
Four British teams failed the attract more than 2,000 though - Guildford Flames, Dundee Stars, Manchester Storm and Fife Flyers.
“The Steelers' product is becoming more and more popular every year” said club owner Tony Smith.
“We can’t thank our supporters enough for their dedication and fanatical support.
“On the ice we have provided the fans with a fast, exciting team that brought back the passion to the Arena.
"Off the ice we have worked day and night to attract new fans to the sport of Ice Hockey and in particular the Steelers.
“Last year 35th, this year 28th, we are determined to continue the hard work to make the Steelers one of the top 20 attended clubs in Europe.”
To do that, they are going to have to mirror their gate on January 4, when they attracted 9,118 for the home game against Guildford.