Sheffield Steelers eyeing rival EIHL players ahead of tournament

An intriguing scramble for EIHL players could begin, if the much-vaunted, new mini-season starts in the next few weeks.

Monday, 4th January 2021, 11:32 am

Several of the 10 clubs in the elite division are not likely to take part - it is possible that just the five English teams will play each other, should all final covid-safety obstacles be overcome.

The Government is dangling a £4m opportunity to Sheffield Steelers, Nottingham Panthers, Coventry Blaze, Manchester Storm and Guildford Blaze.

As long as negotiations are concluded to everyone's satisfaction, the publicly-funded tournament could begin in February.

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And there is some interesting competition likely between the five English clubs who will be eyeing imports and Brits from the other teams in the league that might not be taking part, Cardiff Devils, Belfast Giants, Glasgow Clan, Dundee Stars and Fife Flyers.

Steelers' coach Aaron Fox said: "Those five teams (aiming to play) would be able to pull in some Brits from around the league that maybe are not going (playing elsewhere.)

"100 percent there would be players from places like Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, (if those players in the devolved administrations were not playing.) Those guys will be down looking for jobs, both Brits and imports."

James Bettauer, centre, with Lucas Sandstrom and Marek Troncinsky

Fox says five teams, playing over two or three months, could provide a good competitive level of hockey, made all the more interesting by the passage of players into the shirts of clubs normally regarded as rivals.

*James Bettauer, who played for Steelers last season, has more than doubled his points tally already at his new team, Ravensburg Towerstars, in the German second tier.Bettauer, who can play defence or wing, managed seven points from 27 outings in the EIHL.

After 17 games in the DEL2, he has amassed eight goals and seven assists.

His former team-mate Marek Troncinsky is averaging a point a game for Romanian side Gyergyói HK.

Meanwhile the EIHL website round-up reports: "In Italy it’s not been a great run of games for Rob Dowd and Marc-Olivier Vallerand in Eppan, who are now last in the league - Paul

Thompson and Unterland have climbed above them after a slow start. Dowd has seven points for the team’s eight games so far, with Vallerand on 3+1."

*Swinton-born Ben Bowns is out injured but his Austrian team Graz are hopeful he will be back in the next few weeks.

He is said to be in light training only at the moment.

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