Sheffield Steelers bosses promise quality new players and a top standard league
Sheffield Steelers are promising their fans a team and competition worthy of the name 'Elite League' if a new 12-week season starts next month.
A promised Government grant to fund covid-secure hockey will provide a standard that is close to what arena supporters are used to, even if there are smaller squads and fewer imports on view.
That's the pledge of both the Sheffield owner, Tony Smith, and head coach Aaron Fox.
The latter has been working hard to see which players from last year's Steelers' side can return to the fold, even if they have signed elsewhere, recently.
And he says there is a rich seam of other players just waiting to come into the country for the British experience.
While costs and budgets are yet to be finalised, Smith is positive the end-product will mirror what EIHL spectators are used to.
"The Government has made it very clear that if we get a grant we have to provide Elite League standard, there is no way we are sticking 15 Brits in there," the proprietor said.
"We have got to make it as attractive as possible because if they are going to grant money to put Elite League ice hockey back on, then that is what they expect to see.
"If the Premier League brought Manchester United back in and they played Matlock Town players you would be a bit concerned, wouldn't you?"
Fox is "very optimistic" that the mini-League would start in the new year.
"My mindset right now is talking to players, watching the tapes, and doing some of the recruiting stuff for an early January start," said the coach.
"I know there are a couple of things that still need to get squared away, with the Government deal and other stuff, but my mind is: 'Let's go.'
Referring to the prospect of new players in Steelers' shirts, Fox said: "The lists that agents are sending me are extensive: there won't be a lack of options.
"There are numerous players that are out of jobs right now, there are so many teams that are not playing. There is no issue finding solid players but until I hear the import (numbers) rule and how many guys I can get it's hard to say exactly how many new ones there may be. But I am sure there will be a good handful."
Fox revealed that some mouth-wateringly, talented skaters were available.
"I have seen some names on lists that, in normal years, probably would not be considering going to the UK but in this current environment, with no place to play, it might be a destination they would consider, for three months especially.
"We are going to have to take a chance on a couple of cheaper guys that you hope live up, but there will be some premium players that we will be able to find as well.
"Even with a lesser amount of teams, this is a nice product we can put together."
Fox said that the notion of 10 or 11 imports were "being spoken about right now," for a January start.