Sheffield Steelers: Hands across the city as relationship with Steeldogs grows

A new era in Sheffield ice hockey is set to be begin - and the cold war within the city is well and truly over.

By Bob Westerdale
Tuesday, 02 July, 2019, 09:41
Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Hayley Roberts

Sheffield Steelers and the city's number two team Sheffield Steeldogs haven't always enjoyed the best of relationships.

But over recent times, coaches and more importantly owners, have found common ground.

A new spirit of mutual trust and friendship is now evident between the Elite League club and the semi-professional iceSheffield outfit, who will play in the NIHL National Division.

Steelers' owner Tony Smith said: "The relationship between our clubs has never been better.

"Our coach and their's (Aaron Fox and Ben Morgan) have spoken a few times and agreed a way forward which will help us both.

"Steelers players (non imports) who are not playing on any given night will play for Steeldogs and nobody else, not Bradford, Blackburn or Sutton (as they have before.)

"We and Steeldogs share the name Sheffield, practice at the same rink and there is no reason, from this point, where we cannot be best of friends.

"And if someone like Jordan Griffin, Cole Shudra, Alex Graham, Kieran Brown or Brandon Whistle have been freed up (from playing for Steelers) then they can get plenty of ice time with Steeldogs and help them at the same time.

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"There are going to be some spares this season, we are not going to shoehorn them into our side.

"Nobody's place will be guaranteed, so we will see what happens."

All of this is music to the ears of North Cup winners Steeldogs, who share Steelers' desire in terms of winning their own championship and would benefit from having players with EIHL experience like Shudra, Brown and Canadian-born but dual-national Whistle.

Dogs' coaches Ben Morgan and Greg Wood believe the on-loan Steelers can make a significant impact.

Exactly what the players themselves will think about that prospect is hard to say - players like Shudra and Whistle played a full season in the Elite division last season and won't want to lose that.

But at the end of the day coach Fox wants players competing for their spot, particularly on the fourth line, and skating for the Dogs is certainly more advantageous than sitting on the bench all night or in the stands.

n Steeldogs opponents next year will be: Basingstoke Bison, Bracknell Bees, Swindon Wildcats, Peterborough Phantoms, (Romford/London) Raiders, Milton Keynes Lightning, Leeds Chiefs, Hull Pirates and Telford Tigers.

n More than 30 teams at senior and U16 level will compete in the 2019/20 season in the newly branded Women’s National Ice Hockey League (WNIHL) and Sheffield will be part of that. Sheffield Shadows will have teams in the WNIHL Premier and the WNIHL Division 1 North.