Sheffield Steelers and Steeldogs officially unveil new partnership
A new partnership between Steelers and Steeldogs – revealed a month ago by The Star – was publicly unveiled by both Sheffield ice hockey teams today.
Coaches Aaron Fox and Ben Morgan – mutually keen on a stronger tie between the clubs – have agreed a formal agreement which should give younger Steeler players the best chance of progression because of extra ice time.
The first element of the new bond will see Steelers' apprentices Jordan Griffin and Alex Graham on two-way contract with the iceSheffield outfit.
They will play for Steeldogs for most of the season, unless they are needed as injury cover for the Elite League side.
On July 2, Steelers' owner Tony Smith revealed in The Star that players like Griffin - who iced for Sutton Sting - and Graham - who made his senior debut with the Steeldogs in January on his 16th birthday - would not be farmed out to anybody else other than Dogs.
On a weekly basis, Steelers will also make other skaters like Cole Shudra and Kieran Brown available to Steeldogs dependent on Arena squad roster competition.
Fox will keep an eye on them and also be involved in the Steeldogs 'Prospect Trials' next week, scouting future talent, working alongside Morgan and assistant coach Greg Wood.
Steeldogs' co-owner Ali Cree commented: "Since day one when we took on the ownership of Steeldogs, it’s been a priority to reconnect with Steelers management and at the other end of the scale Sheffield Academy and neighbouring junior teams, to provide pathways for young talent.
“Our aim is to provide the best hockey pathway within the UK from junior right through to senior, elite hockey.
“This is a monumental step to build something to help hockey develop in Sheffield and wider across the UK.
“We hope that players will follow Reece Cochrane’s example [the 18-year-old left EIHL team Fife Flyers for Dogs] and look at relocating to Sheffield.
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"He will be working but there are options to study, like at the University Technical College Olympic Legacy Park.
"They can showcase their talents with us under the eyes of Morgs, Greg and Aaron.”
Smith said: “We are delighted to get this deal over the line with Steeldogs. We have always wanted to be a part of a pathway where the youngsters playing at iceSheffield could see their way to skating out at the Arena as a Steeler.
“It’s been done before by the likes of Cole Shudra and Liam Kirk but we want to see it happen more often and this collaboration will certainly assist the process.
“Now it’s time for the hockey people to do their stuff; I know Aaron and Ben have a good relationship.
Fox added: “This affiliation gives us an option for our younger guys to develop locally if they aren’t playing consistent minutes with us.
"This way they are still practicing with us and able to easily transition to Steeldogs on the weekends. Ben and I are both on the same page and think this benefits both clubs.”
Morgan also regards the 'buddying-up' as a positive: “Aaron wants to create a pathway for developing young players and he sees Steeldogs as the perfect club to allow his players to train with the Steelers day-in, day-out and then get quality ice time with us.
“I’m looking forward to working with Jordan and Kieran, who I’ve only played against before. It will be great to work with Cole again – it’s been a few years since he was with us. It will be interesting to see how he has developed.
“It’s also massive just to have Alex back. We had already been making plans for his development as he had showed he was ready for the step up to the NIHL and I think it will be a interesting season for Alex in the new National Division.”
* Craig Elliott, a familiar face at Steeldogs, is to return to the club for season 2019-20. He iced for the side in their first ever season and played for them for six seasons.
Elliott spent last season with Sutton Sting, scoring 47 points in 32 games.