Sheffield Steelers' focus is now on winning the title next year

Sheffield Steelers are shrugging off the disappointment of failing to land a mini-season...and are focusing now on winning the 2021-22 championship instead.

Thursday, 4th February 2021, 5:39 pm

And owner Tony Smith says the recruitment skills of coach Aaron Fox, who is secure on a three year contract with the Challenge Cup winners, will be a massive advantage for the club.

He believes that having a coach installed for the comparative long term, living in Sheffield, and working on the blueprint even as early as at this stage, will be a considerable asset.

"We will be back bigger and better than ever," says Smith.

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"Steelers left on a high last season, we won the only trophy, in one of the best games of ice hockey I have seen in a long, long time.

"For me, that game proved Aaron Fox is making this team into something special.

"And the fans are in for a real treat when they come back, Aaron will recruit what we hope will be a championship-winning team. That's the focus - building a title-winning team.

"We'd have liked to have started for a mini-series in March to help the Great Britain national team guys out, but it appears that won't be possible unless Sport England have a change of heart" (over allowing English teams grant aid during the coronavirus.)

Sheffield Steelers owner Tony Smith's favourite game of last season: Cardiff v Steelers cup final

Smith told The Star this week that he was frustrated that the EIHL had made the early running for funds during lockdown, but no grant was forthcoming and public cash now appeared to be being "diverted" to ice hockey clubs below the EIHL.

His opinions triggered some hostility on social media from fans of teams in the NIHL and below.

Smith remains convinced, though, that the EIHL's argument that GB players need top flight games in England before the summer World Championships, has effectively backfired on them.

"There was a suggestion, made during a conversation with Deloittes, the government accountants, that it might be cheaper to get the GB guys in the lower league.

"I'm not having a pop at the lower league here but we are talking here about finely-tuned athletes who need top level training, specific diets and off-ice conditioning support, before playing the best in the world."

He said that if the skaters did not get the right preparation, or are overtrained, they could suffer injuries.

But he conceded that if the NIHL was all that was available - and it is clearly good enough for ex Steeler Ben O'Connor - then you could not blame players for trying their luck now the Government appeared to be backing a five team NIHL tournament 'Spring Cup' during this month and March.

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