Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox admits he used his contact book to help build the team he has at his disposal for the Elite Series.
The American has had a good look at his team before they take to the ice for the competition, which begins on Saturday at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.
And he confessed he’s glad to be able to put his coaching hat on again in what will be the club’s first game since winning the Challenge Cup in March 2020.
“I feel like I’ve known quite a few of the guys just by watching them so far, “ Fox said. “(Sondre) Olden is someone I known from Zagreb who I know will perform well for us and everyone’s been in pretty good shape so far so it’s been a good start.
“I used a couple of relationships at my end to talk to guys about coming to do something like this. It’s an opportunity for them to showcase themselves and from an organisational point of view from us, we have the arena and the facilities so it goes a long way.
🍊🏒📺 The #2021EliteSeries starts on Saturday 3rd April – Steelers first game 7pm Vs. Nottingham Panthers.
— Sheffield Steelers | #2021EliteSeries (@steelershockey) April 1, 2021
“The player pool was a tenth of the size when the guys are playing in the East Coast League, which started later and will finish later so trying to persuade guys would be a hard sell.
“There were also players in Europe who had finished, but their teams maybe threatened to hold back their last payment if they came here. There were definitely issues with recruitment.
“Once we managed to sign the last guy, I was able to take a big breath of fresh air and finally put my coaching hat on again, which has been fun to do.”
Fox is happy with the make-up of his team, adding experience in the form of Matthew Myers and Jason Hewitt to young talents such as Alex Graham and Josh Waller.
He believes the mix can be a positive for his team and while he admits there’s an eye on players for hopefully next season, he’s aware the tough schedule could have an impact.
“The youth and experience we have in the team is a great mix,” he added. “We’ve got the young guys who want to prove they can be those guys someday.
“Matty Myers is a great example and he had five guys with him as soon as the ice opened the other day, working on some drills before we even started.
“It’s definitely good for the younger players to see that’s the kind of character we have on the team.
“We’ve got one eye on next season for sure, but the aim, for us, is to win. This exercise also allows the Brits to get some hockey out of it to help them for the World Championships.
“The hardest part in all of this could be the injury side of it, with so many games over a short period of time. You really have to manage that and that’s something I’ll deal with down the line, but I’m not worried.”