Time for a proper bond between Sheffield Steelers and Steeldogs says Cree

Ali Cree says Sheffield Steeldogs would love to forge a new, two-way understanding with their EIHL neighbours, the Steelers, in the years ahead.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 10:48 am

The Dogs' co-owner has been delighted with the wholehearted way Jonathan Phillips, Davey Phillips, Alex Graham and Liam Kirk have committed to the iceSheffield set-up during the NIHL Spring Cup, a trophy they clinched with two games to spare.

Cree wants to see more products from the Attercliffe development system end up in orange - while Steeldogs could be an obvious home for elite players at the sunset of their careers.

"When some players have retired from the Elite League in the past, they have probably overlooked us," he said.

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"But this tournament has opened their eyes, Davey and Jono have really enjoyed it, for example.

"We are happy to do our part developing players and we understand the system.

"We try to help players like Alex Graham. He is moving up to the Elite League, which he fully deserves, and it would be quite nice if the system worked the other way.

"When guys are reaching the end of their EIHL career they'd know, especially after experiencing it, that they could look upon us as a viable option to come back down," said Cree.

"Sheffield is home for a lot of these guys; they like playing and living locally. And I'd like to think, long term, that the chain will work, we pass players up and we get to see some of the Steeler legends, particularly the Brit pack. We would use the assets that may not be of as much use to Steelers any more."

Cree said GB defenceman Davey Phillips was a classic example of an EIHL player who had spread the wisdom of his experience to others at Steeldogs.

"He has gone out way to help, they have all been phenomenal, really.

"I walked down the changing room the other day, left for 10 minutes and when I came back Davey was still talking to one of our guys.

Pic 1: Alex Graham and a mixture of Dogs and Steeler folk, pic by Podium Prints

"It is quite awesome to see people like him sitting down with a coaching board and pointing out a few bits of advice, running through different plays."

The co-owner said the Spring Cup had given them a remarkable opportunity to mix together regular 'Dogs players, youngsters and Steeler veterans.

"It has been very unique and special, it's great to see the senior guys working with other players in practice."

Cree has clearly enjoyed having ex Steeler and Hull Pirates' player coach Jason Hewitt in his ranks.

Davey Phillips: helping the young guns. Pic: Podium Prints

"Jason is a pantomime villain for us when we play Hull normally but he has also been great with the younger guys."

Cree insisted that the Spring Cup had not been a "clean sweep" for Sheffield, despite winning all 11 games so far, with an average of six goals in the opposition net per game.

"There has been some close matches and we have had to work hard to keep the standards up and achieve the results that we have."

Steeldogs rubbed in their superiority over closest Cup competitors, Telford Tigers, with a 7-4 road win on Wednesday.

Liam Kirk excelled with a hat-trick and two assists, while there was a four point night for Ben O'Connor.