Gough hopeful Stingrays deal is close

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THE future of Hull Stingrays should be clearer by the end of this week, according to potential new owner Nic Gough.

The Beverley-based businessman has teamed up with bench coach Bobby McEwan in a bid to buy the club from the current ownership, who last month announced they were moving on after two years of running the Elite League outfit.

The duo are also thought to be the only ones to have submitted an application to Hull City Council to gain the ice-time contract for the 2012-13 season at Hull Arena, where the Stingrays are based.

The deadline for submissions is on Monday, with other potential bidders understood to have withdrawn from the process.

A decision on the ice-time contract is expected on Wednesday, with Gough not anticipating any last-minute hiccoughs. He is also close to agreeing terms with the current owners – who also run Stingrays’ league rivals Coventry Blaze – with who negotiations have been ongoing since early April.

“I really hope that by the end of next week we will have a clearer picture on both the ownership issue and the ice-time contract,” said Gough.

“We are quietly confident that we will be icing a team in the Elite League from Hull Arena next season.

“We are not going to cut our noses off to spite our face – we are very keen to ensure that top-flight hockey stays in Hull.”

Stingrays’ player-coach Sylvain Cloutier is known to be on board with the Gough/McEwan bid and is thought to be attempting to recruit players for the 2012-13 campaign but will no doubt find his efforts hampered due to the ownership issue still being unresolved.

Shortly after his team saw their season ended in the play-off semi-finals last month, Cloutier warned that time was precious in terms of sorting out the ownership issue due to rival clubs - both in the UK and Europe – circling around to try and snatch Hull’s most-coveted players away. It is believed that at least two players from Stingrays’ 2011-12 roster have already agreed terms elsewhere, both with clubs in the English Premier League.

SHEFFIELD Steelers’ defenceman Mark Thomas has agreed terms to return for an eighth season with the 2011-12 Elite League runners-up.

The 28-year-old GB international joined the Steelers from the London Racers back in 2005 and has played almost 400 games for the club.

Thomas will form part of a six-strong defensive unit being put together by player-coach Ryan Finnerty, as the South Yorkshire club look to avoid a second successive trophyless season.

“Having four quality imports plus Danny alongside Tommo this year will give us what I think will be the strongest D core the Elite League has seen,” said Finnerty.

“He can play in all situations and last season probably played as our No 3 D-man at times. Those inside our hockey club know how valuable he is to us. He’s a leader and a guy who turns up to the rink with a positive attitude every day.”

Thomas, who recently helped the British team remain in the second tier of the world championships after a hard-fought campaign in Slovenia, added: “With the new signings and the stable ownership I can only see good times and success ahead for us here.

“I welcome the new additions at the back end, if we can rotate six D for the majority of the season it will only help us – when out on the ice we can go harder, be more aggressive and not have to conserve as much energy. It’s a huge step forward for the club to be going with six.”

phil.harrison@ypn.co.uk

Twitter: @PhilH_YPSport

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