Comment: How Stevie Lee can save GB

Stevie Lee is off to play in Italy so could we see more Brits playing abroad? (PHOTO: John Uwins)

With Ben Bowns moving to Austria and Stevie Lee making the move to Italy, Great Britain’s World Championship campaign may yet be salvageable in the face of coronavirus.

Speculation has been rife for the last week that the Elite League looks set to go into cold storage for a season while Covid-19 and its effects continues to ravage the various elements of our lives.

The EIHL will make that decision on 15th September whether we see any action either in December, February or even not at all.

Not having a campaign would, of course, have a huge detrimental effect on Great Britain and their hopes in their second crack at the top level of the World Championships.

The 2020 edition was cancelled so focus turns to Belarus and Minsk where GB will play their group games – but that’s by no means certain with the political situation, where there have been protests against the government there.

Putting that aside, the move that sees Stevie Lee head to Italy to play with HC Pustertal could be one that can help the British players get out of the bind of having to sit on their thumbs for a season.

Bowns’ move to Austria was likely to happen, given how much his stock has risen in the past couple of years, while Robert Farmer and Liam Kirk have impressed away from these shores.

The question is, will Lee’s move be a watershed moment for other GB players to seek moves elsewhere while uncertainty continues over the EIHL in 2020/21?

Watching from his own corner in Germany, Pete Russell, the national coach, will have kept a close eye on things as this episode plays out and wondered about how to prepare for the championships.

Ben Bowns also moved to Europe to sign for Graz 99ers in Austria (PHOTO: Graz 99ers)

To be frank, the Elite League did him no favours by announcing a possible December start and the play-off weekend in the middle of May – a week before GB’s first game in the championships.  

The news that Lee has taken up a move to join GB and former Nottingham Panthers team-mate Brett Perlini will have pleased him, assuming there are no further coronavirus-related issues in Italy or anywhere else in the next few months.

The thought of no campaign in the UK is a bleak one in the current circumstances, but if there can be a positive that can come from it, it’s that British players can find the opportunities elsewhere in Europe to keep them active.

It won’t only benefit them or their respective clubs, but GB as well, if you want to look that far ahead.  It’s a great move for Stevie and we wish him well.  Let’s see if any others follow him out into the continent.

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