It’s 11pm on Tuesday evening. I’m sat in bed at my hotel room at East Midlands Airport after chairing the Elite League’s fixture meeting.
We started at 8.30am and finished an hour ago, all 12 clubs sat going through every day of the season trying to find the perfect schedule.
It’s the most important day in the Elite League season, more important than any game day, cup final or play off championship weekend.
All 12 clubs have different situations with their landlords. Some clubs have every available date. How brilliant would that be? Some clubs get their pick most weekends and then the Arena clubs with their dates dictated by other events going on.
Shaun Smith represented Sheffield and did a terrific job. Shaun has a tougher time than his 11 counterparts. I know, I did that job for 15 years before chairing the Fixtures Committee. The Steeler dates are the hardest to arrange with the lack of dates available; every year it amazes me how we find a schedule that’s acceptable but Shaun did it again this year and I hope coaches, players, fans and the Arena appreciate his efforts.
Steelers also had to negotiate around a possible two weekend absence with Continual Cup action.
Those fans who enjoy their Scottish weekends away, well I can tell you we will be up on Scotland for a couple of double headers, the same with Belfast. Christmas will be Christmas as usual.
The reality is that the league season needs extending, at least one week, maybe two. We need to start a week earlier and end a week later. The league has to think of itself. It may upset the national programme but it is players from our league who play in the programme. It’s money from our league through subscriptions and international transfer card fees that help fund that programme. Clubs are, in my opinions, playing too many games in too short a period. Steelers are playing 80 games this year when you take every fixture into account.
The other good news I received when I returned to my hotel room was that we’ve made another signing, as we stand it looks like we will confirm his identity on Friday. The player is a top quality signing, a player who makes his line-mates and the team better. I know Paul Thompson has been working on bringing this player to Sheffield for months and when I just spoke with him was delighted he finally landed his man.
Being at this fixtures meeting you speak with all of the clubs. All 12 are excited about the year ahead, all 12 believe it will be the biggest and best in the Elite League history. They have good reason to as well, more players, better pedigrees, better players, bigger budgets, bigger rosters – a better product for you to watch, a superior, more competitive game for you to pay your money to see.
Talking of paying your money to watch a game – what about the Steelers two Sheffield Arena games against Coventry (26th August) and Coventry (2nd September) - both games have an entrance fee of just £5 . Now come on, where can you go in Sheffield for an event that costs just £5. On the 26th against Manchester Storm we have a “Championship” banner raising ceremony pre game – a really special guest attending the event and its the first time the team will skate at the Sheffield Arena.
Exciting times, people and it’s getting closer to the action starting with this outstanding games against both Swedish Giants Sodertalje and German DEL side Nurnberg at iceSheffield starting on the 12th August.