Robert Dowd hopes for Sheffield Steelers return but only after completing Italian playoff job

ROBERT DOWD would love nothing better than to lace up alongside his Sheffield Steelers’ team-mates for the forthcoming Elite Series but his immediate focus remains on the playoffs for current employers Eppan/Appiano in Italy.

Robert Dowd hopes he may be able to play some part in Sheffield Steelers' Elite Series campaign, but he first has to help Italian club Eppan/Appiano in their playoff campaign. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The 32-year-old GB international forward has spent the 2020-21 campaign playing alongside Steelers’ team-mate Marc-Olivier Vallerand after the regular Elite League season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And Dowd has made the most of being able to maintain a full-time hockey career in Northern Italy where he is his team’s leading scorer and fourth overall in the Italian second tier with seven goals and 17 assists in 13 games.

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It’s the kind of return the Steelers would love to have back at their disposal for the behind-closed-doors, four-team tournament when it gets underway at the National Ice Centre next month.

Robert Dowd is expected to be part of the Great Britain squad contesting this year's WEorld Championships against the likes of Russia in Riga in May. Picture: Dean Woolley.

All four teams involved – the Steelers will take on Coventry Blaze, Manchester Storm and Nottingham Panthers – are allowed to ‘protect’ five British or dual national players either previously signed in the last two seasons, or already under contract for the 2021-22 season.

It would be a big surprise were the Steelers not to name Dowd as one of their five, with captain Jonathan Phillips already revealed to be one who will definitely be on their roster.

But even if, as expected, the Steelers do lock in Dowd, it’s not yet clear how long they will have him for.

“I’ve got a job to do here at the moment and it is something I want to see through until the end,” said Dowd ahead of next week’s first game in a best-of-five, round one, post-season opener against rivals Varese.

“I’m committed to playing here in the playoffs, but I’d also love to take part in the Elite Series in some shape or form if it works out that I’m available for it.”

The rest of the EIHL teams’ rosters will be made up of up to eight imports and at least seven other British players, including dual nationals, who will be picked via a unique draft, screened live on Facebook on Monday evening.

So far, 70 eligible players have declared an interest in being picked, with only 28 spots essentially available, plus however many can be placed on reserve.

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