Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox expecting rivalries to intensify quickly in Elite Series

SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ head coach Aaron Fox believes the Elite Series will enable rivalries between the four participating teams to become even more intense.

NO LOVE LOST: Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers will meet each other at least four times in April's Elite Series. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Yesterday saw the release of the schedule for the four-week, behind-closed-doors tournament at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre, with the Steelers kicking off their campaign against their bitterest rivals, Nottingham Panthers, on Saturday, April 3 (7pm).

Manchester Storm and Coventry Blaze launch the competition earlier in the day before all four teams settle into a familiar schedule which will see them play each other four times.

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Further Steelers’ games against the Panthers are scheduled for Saturday, April 10 (7pm), Friday, April 16 (7pm) and Saturday, April 24 (7pm), with the Steelers finishing the group phase against former coach Ryan Finnerty’s Manchester team on Sunday, April 25 (7pm).

Each team faces 12 games in 23 days, before all four progress to a two-legged playoff semi-final across two nights.

The winners of each semi-final will then take each other on in a best-of-three series final spread across four days starting on Friday, April 30.

“I think anytime you play the same teams over and over again, you’re going to get to know them quite quickly and build up that rivalry,” said Fox who, having already selected his British players for the Steelers’ roster – some protected, others through Monday night’s Draft – is currently putting together the eight imports who will join them in Nottingham.

“Playing teams four times in a month isn’t unheard of, so it wont be that much different to a normal regular season schedule in that sense. “And that is what seems to be happening right now in most leagues – in the NHL, for example, you have the Canadian division where only Canadian teams play each other and so on.

TEAM BUILDING: Sheffield Steelers head coach Aaron Fox is currently sorting out his eight imports to add to his roster for the Elite Series. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley

“I think the last two weeks of this series are going to be produce some of the most intense and exciting hockey. Teams won’t like each other by then and it will be getting pretty serious by the end.”

Training camps for each team are expected to begin on Monday, March 29, the day immediately after the ongoing NIHL National Spring Cup comes to an end.

A number of players picked for the Elite Series are currently involved with other teams in the second-tier event.

Regarding his roster, Fox added: “I like the way things are trending, there’s still some ink to paper that I need to get done, but I think we will be in a good spot.”

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