Sheffield Steelers: Tony Smith puts his money where his mouth is with expensive summer spending spree

When Tony Smith indicated that he'd be splashing out on new talent this Summer, he wasn't over-elaborating.

Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 3:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 4:56 pm
Steelers coach Aaron Fox and owner Tony Smith

This week's arrival of two Czech goaltenders, Pavel Kantor and Tomas Duba, pretty much completes the line-up of regulars on the new and hopefully much-improved Sheffield Steelers' roster.

By any team's standards it has been one heck of a close-season.

And, in British ice hockey terms, an expensive one.

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In June, Smith told The Star that he had presented the coach Aaron Fox with "the highest budget we have had since I have been here."

The club's recent decision to release - and not replace winger Brandon Whistle - means his salary has been saved.

But Whistle's earnings as a fourth line, first-year professional would have been tiny in the overall scale of things, and there is no doubt that Smith has meant business after witnessing last year's team flop into seventh place.

Whether Smith has bought an Elite League championship with his money remains to be seen.

But he has certainly bought in some experienced overseas playes to add to the outstanding British talent.

Former coach Paul Thompson had tried to bring in younger players this time last year, yet within a short space of time he had to get rid of the likes of brothers Matt and Ryan Rupert after half a dozen games, followed by Justin Buzzeo and Stefan Della Rovere.

Hopefully, there won't be a similar turnaround this season, under Fox.

The class of 2019-20 start their training camp in Sheffield on Monday.

The line-up, once gelled, should be more powerful and competitive in every department than last season- which means the owner should see a return on his investment.

It is asking a lot of a new team (and new coach) to unseat Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils, who will doubtless be seen as frontrunners again for the title.

But Sheffield's orange army of fans might be better informed about their chances when they see the team entertain Slovakian side HK Poprad, the weekend after next.

*Steelers will have two Aarons in charge of player matters this season: second-year defenceman Aaron Johnson - who has 291 NHL games under his belt - has been selected as player-assistant coach.

Fox thought Johnson can play more aggressively than in last year's "passive defence" - and now he has given him extra responsibilities on top of his own game.