Sheffield Steelers will pull in a giant crowd
The pulling power of Sheffield Steelers remains evident despite a 536-day recess from ice hockey at the city's Arena.
The pandemic lockdown put the sport in the deep freeze of course and there has been no hockey at the east end venue since February 29, 2020.
But while Steelers were gone, they were not forgotten.
Today the club announced a massive 6,200 tickets had been sold ahead of the Steelers versus Nottingham Panthers game (4pm) on Sunday September 19.
And the match is a pre-season friendly!
The sheer scale of the interest has impressed team captain Jonathan Phillips, who has seen a thing or two at Sheffield since joining the club back in 2006.
“It’s great to know that the fans haven’t forgotten us," said the Great Britain winger.
“I always hoped that the first game would attract a big crowd, something that would really announce our return back to the Arena.
"But the sale of 6,200 tickets - and there are still two weeks to go before the game - is something that has all of the players excited.
“We’ve missed the buzz of a big night at the Arena and to know we are getting such a great welcome back on night one is incredible.
"It just shows how big the Steelers are in the city of Sheffield," said Phillips.
“Of course we (the players) talk about the fans and their expectations when we are together either at the gym or on the ice at iceSheffield. "Evan Mosey joined us a week ago and he talks about it.
"Marco (Vallerand) has arrived and he is talking about it. Every one of us is excited to walk back into our home, the Arena, and skate onto the new ice."
The Welshman says the attendance figure has only increased the team's determination to "put a show on."
The fans have waited 536 days, they deserve a big night, a big show and an opening game against the Nottingham Panthers is the perfect start for us.
“Really, Sunday 19th September can’t come soon enough.”
It will be interesting to see if Steelers can match the crowd for their biggest pre-season game in 2019-20, around 7,000 watched Aaron Fox's men beat MAC Budapest 5-4, with Tanner Eberle being named man of the match with two goals.
The Arena has changed the times doors will be open this season. Rather than one hour before face-off, they will now open 90 minutes before (2.30pm on the 19th.)
Also, the Arena will open its box office on the day of the game at 1pm on Sunday 19th (up until now it's purchase only online.)
Steelers are grateful for the support shown by the Arena as ice hockey returns from the wilderness.
Spokesman Dave Simms said: "More than £1.2m has spent on a new ice plant, brand new NHL boards, and glass. It is a big investment and shows the Arena’s faith in us moving forward."
Steelers' first home League game of the season is against Cardiff Devils on September 26. Ben O'Connor's return should guarantee another big gate.