What we have learned during 300-day absence of Sheffield Steelers
Here are five things we have learned during the 300-day absence of Sheffield Steelers from Covid 19-closed EIHL ice pads.
1: Absence makes the heart go fonder.
There appears to be little dampening of enthusiasm for the club, its players, its history and its future from fans, many of whom keep the 'Orange Army' support and banter alive on social media.
Many supporters are now realising what they had perhaps taken for granted - dramatic, colourful Arena nights framing a highly entertaining standard of ice hockey.
2: A wider understanding about the lives of hockey players.
Nobody likes to see good players leave the club...normally.
But with Coronavirus savaging the planned EIHL schedule, skaters like Marco Vallerand, Robert Dowd and Brendan Connolly had to find employment overseas.
Fans may have initially baulked at seeing their heroes joining other clubs...but that was followed by a realisation that these guys all have bills to pay and families to support.
Many of the players have opened up about the mental and financial stresses they have had to endure during lockdown.
3: The club management is an optimistic bunch.
Nobody has worked harder than owner and EIHL chairman Tony Smith in getting the show back on the road - even if that eventually leads to a modest, two, or three month mini-season starting in February.
Smith still thinks it's likely that they can resolve all the questions posed by the Government, who are poised (hopefully) to hand over up to £4m to the five English clubs, so they can re-start.
4: Stable, accessible team leadership.
Coach Aaron Fox is American - but he is one of the only Steeler coaches in history to put roots down and stay in Sheffield all-year round. He keeps a watchful eye on his players, those who are icing elsewhere and those who are simply waiting for the EIHL to get going again.
And just as importantly he has proved to be a skilled and resourceful recruiter - an asset which turned round the club's fortunes from the day he arrived in South Yorkshire.
Fox has also rolled up his sleeves during the lockdown, supporting all fund-raising events and even packing merchandising boxes. He's proved to be an all-rounder.
5: Intriguing times lay ahead.
If the New Year tournament goes ahead, supported by streamed games on the web, Sheffield fans and others will almost certainly respond by opening their wallets for pay-per-view games.
Steelers won't just screen the games, they will have a TV-style show to wrap around the action.
Post vaccination, when the fans are allowed back, Steelers are promising a bolder, brasher match night experience than ever before...and keep an eye out for a new visual presentation at the curtain end.
Keep up to date with all the latest from Sheffield Steelers via our dedicated Twitter account @TheStarSteelers, or join our Steelers Facebook group.