What Sheffield Steelers had to fork out to buy their new 'farm team'

Sheffield Steelers’ purchase of their neighbouring ice hockey club, the Steeldogs, has set them back somewhere in the region of £100,000.
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Planet Ice, the company which runs teams in the second-tier NIHL, has made public that Steelers’ boss Tony Smith had to fork out £50,000 to enable the Elite League team “to also operate a National League team.”

That money has been paid to the English Ice Hockey Association and it is reasonable to expect a similar amount has been paid locally to secure the purchase of the Dogs’ club and its brand.

The EIHA windfall has created a precedent.

Steeler Robert Dowd in Steeldogs' kit last week Pic Pete BestSteeler Robert Dowd in Steeldogs' kit last week Pic Pete Best
Steeler Robert Dowd in Steeldogs' kit last week Pic Pete Best
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Planet Ice noted that: “It is understood that any other Elite League team wishing to operate a team in both the Elite League and the National League going forward will be required to pay £50,000 to the new league to cover operating expenses.”

The money from Steelers “will be used to set-up the Planet Ice National Ice Hockey League, National division as a standalone league starting from the 24/25 season.”

Planet Ice clearly has an eye on the possibility of any team with wealthy ownership dominating the NIHL.

“Clearly there is a significant risk to the current league and teams if one of the teams spends a significant amount more on players than the other teams” they said in a statement.

Fans of hockey at iceSheffield Pic Pete BestFans of hockey at iceSheffield Pic Pete Best
Fans of hockey at iceSheffield Pic Pete Best
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“It is understood that assurances have been made by the Steeldogs that they will operate on a similar basis to the other teams in the league.”

Interestingly, Planet Ice recalled a conversation in June where they were “made aware by Ali Cree (then Dogs’ owner) of a situation involving the Steeldogs relating to their financial issues.”

Cree “painted a picture of being subjected to a hostile takeover and made it clear that he wished to continue running the Steeldogs.”

It is understood that takeover bid was not the one from Steelers that was to ultimately become successful.

IceSheffield Pic Pete BestIceSheffield Pic Pete Best
IceSheffield Pic Pete Best
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Planet Ice also sent out a message that ice hockey was not the only breadwinner at their chain of assets across the UK, which include the rinks used by Manchester Storm, Coventry Blaze, Leeds Knights, Milton Keynes Lightning and Peterborough Phantoms.

The company said it reviewed: “Its business model on a regular basis, and there is a strong business case for using the rinks in the evenings for non-ice hockey events and activities in rinks that are capable of accommodating large crowds, and especially on Saturdays.”

At any rate, Steelers now have a new affiliate.

The news broke on Friday when the EIHA – who had been publicly silent on the issue for days – issued a statement.

“An agreement has been reached for Sheffield Steelers to acquire Sheffield Steeldogs, and that agreement will allow Steeldogs to fully participate in the Planet Ice National Ice Hockey League in the 2023 season and beyond” the body said.

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“The Planet Ice National Ice Hockey league is pleased to confirm that 11 teams will compete in the 23/24 season.

“The Steeldogs’ organisation needed to evaluate some financial and operational restructuring options, resulting in Tony Smith taking ownership of the Steeldogs.

“Tony has confirmed that the Steeldogs will be sustainable and compliant moving forward.”

It represents a victory for Sheffield ice hockey at all levels.

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Young players will have a clearer view of the route from junior hockey to the EIHL to aspire to.

And Steelers can explore marketing opportunities and work on filling more seats at iceSheffield.

The addition of Jonathan Phillips to Steeldogs’ ranks will certainly trigger wider interest in Jason Hewitt’s side.

They will be hoping to improve on last season’s fourth place finish when they lagged behind Leeds, Milton Keynes and Peterborough.

Steeldogs start their home campaign in an exhibition against Solway Sharks on September 10.

Their home regular season faces off against Milton Keynes on September 24.