Short training camp for Sheffield Steelers compared to EIHL competition

Sheffield Steelers' players will be ordered to hit the ground running this season as several of their EIHL rivals will be ahead of them in terms of team-preparation.
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A good start will be essential for Aaron Fox's new-look team if they are going to stay in contention for a pop at the League title they have not won since 2016.

And it is obvious that the Sheffield players, new and old, will have to have managed their own strength and conditioning to a high standard if they are to be on the same level as Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils.

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Giants - the team that set the standard last season for everyone else to aspire to - have been honing their skills in preparation for facing six different opponents in the Champions Hockey League.

Ouch: Belfast Giants will get an early start to the season Pic Dean WoolleyOuch: Belfast Giants will get an early start to the season Pic Dean Woolley
Ouch: Belfast Giants will get an early start to the season Pic Dean Woolley

Steve Thornton, head of hockey at Northern Ireland's The Odyssey Trust, says he is already "incredibly happy with how the roster has shaped up after a long summer of recruiting.

"We really like the way we look on paper and feel that we have a good core of returning players, mixed in with some talented new arrivals. Our team’s speed is something that has stood out for me so far during training camp, and we’re very much looking forward to our first pre-season game on home ice against Cardiff Devils this weekend.”

Fox hasn't had the luxury of such an early start.

In a video on the club's website, Fox admitted: "We only have two weeks of camp, which is not a big number.

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"I know Cardiff has been on the ice for a couple of weeks here and Belfast for a couple of weeks and Nottingham are going to be on a week longer than us, so it is going to be up to us to make sure the guys came in in shape and get them the information they need as quickly as possible and get up to top form quickly here."

Steelers have had to accept that Belfast's CHL programme will obviously put them in competitive early shape and that Cardiff, because of unfettered access to their rink, can get their match-fitness going quicker too.

On the same web platform, though, Steelers' owner Tony Smith suggested that there would be no excuses if silverware is not lifted at the end of 2023-24.

He said he loved to "put pressure" on his staff to provide success.

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Smith said it had been made very clear that the fans were demanding top spot in the league.

"There is only so long you can get away with telling them we (the ownership) have got to make the club stable, because then we move forward...well we have been stable for quite some time now."

It was now time for the "fun side" - to build on the Challenge Cup win of 2020.

"We have got to get down to the serious stuff of winning trophies because that is what our fans deserve. It is a hell of a season coming up."