Who you gonna call? Sheffield Steelers' ghost roster!

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They are calling it the "ghost roster" - the Steelers' line-up that will either beat the Covid lockdown and skate on Sheffield ice or will never see the light of day.

Coach Aaron Fox has pencilled in a squad which he hopes would be strong enough to beat the four other English clubs in a February or March mini-league, should it be financed by the Government.

Fox's plans include players associated with other Elite League clubs which will probably not be playing until September.

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Sheffield owner Tony Smith says the availability of home-grown players will go some way towards plugging the likely gaps that will be created when it comes to flying in imports.

With different countries, and districts within them, imposing lockdowns, bringing in foreign players is fraught with potential difficulties.

"As Aaron has said we might use more British guys than before, as there is going to be an abundance of British players," said Smith.

"It might not be that we have 12 or 14 imports, it could be lower but it is difficult to predict.

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Sheffield Steelers in combat last seasonSheffield Steelers in combat last season
Sheffield Steelers in combat last season

"Aaron has already spoken to players from elsewhere in the UK and has put together a ghost roster which looks ok.

"He is bandying around a few players - there are one or two who would love to come in."

As for imports, Smith said: "If a player overseas cannot come because of lockdown, he can't come, it's as simple as that. You will then be finding players who can come, whether it's from Europe or Canada or more Brits."

Smith, chairman of the EIHL, says all five English clubs, Sheffield Steelers, Nottingham Panthers, Guildford Flames, Coventry Blaze and Manchester Storm, are in a similar state of readiness, should agreement be reached with the Government.

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Whitehall has pledged a £4m war chest for the English clubs, the details of which have yet to be thrashed out.

"Yes, the five clubs are all in the same position, we all know how to get started and put things together," said the chairman.

"We have all talked to our rinks and it's a case that if they told us tomorrow we could go we could put our plans into place.

"We have not reached the point of no return yet, if we have seen nothing by the end of February then we will have run out of time because we couldn't possibly get everything running to an acceptable standard (with that notice.)"

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Smith has said the condensed tournament could start as late as mid march March and run into May.

"There are a couple of weeks in May before the Great Britain guys have to travel to the World Championships.

"We would be looking at six or eight weeks' play, to give them some sort of ice before Worlds.

"Six could work, right now it's any port in a storm: six would have to work if that is all we had.

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"But the worst situation would be to start and then shut down again," he added.

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