Show must go on as Sheffield Steelers owner Tony Smith declares respect for absent Elite League friends

ELITE LEAGUE chairman Tony Smith is understandably pleased to see top-flight hockey returning to the UK – he just regrets more teams will not be taking part.

Four Elite League teams will contest the Elite Series behind-closed-doors at Nottingham's National Ice Centre next month. Picture courtesy of EIHL/Dave Williams

Any normal EIHL regular season would see 10 teams competing, but these are not ‘normal’ times.

After months of no action and frustration Smith will see his own Sheffield Steelers team go head-to-head with EIHL rivals Nottingham Panthers, Coventry Blaze and Manchester Storm next month in a behind-closed-doors Elite Series.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Spread over five weeks, the tournament – staged at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre – will be streamed live online to paying fans.

The event has been given the go ahead after the EIHL secured funding via the government’s Winter Sports Survival Package announced last November.

But teams in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will not be taking part, partly through being unable to secure any funding themselves via their devolved administrations.

Guildford Flames will also be missing after after opting out.

“This is an ‘Elite Series’, it doesn’t represent the whole league,” said Smith. “I really wish it did, I wish we had all 10 teams playing, but that isn’t possible.

Sheffield Steelers owner and EIHL chairman, Tony Smith Picture: Dean Woolley

“I respect the decisions of all the other clubs, it’s absolutely the right thing for them to do.”

“Everybody’s circumstances are different, whole and we have to do what we can and this short series is the best that we can offer.

“We are a very tight-knit group in the EIHL, we’re 10 teams and we always hope that we will be 10 teams or more – the offer is always there for other teams to talk to us if they feel so inclined.

“We wanted to go as 10, we applied initially for funding as 10 teams and then it came back slightly different that it was only to be English teams that could access the funding (viain the Winter Sports Survival Package announced in November).

“There have been a lot of conversations, a lot of hard work and submissions to get to this point. But something is better than nothing right now and I think everybody would agree that getting the Elite Series on is good news.”

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.