Sheffield Steeldogs player-coach Ben Morgan is optimistic ahead of the new NIHL season and reckons the new National league, starting this weekend, had to happen.
Steeldogs will play in the first ever NIHL National game when they host new boys Leeds Chiefs at Ice Sheffield on Sunday.
And Morgan believes the formation of a new “second tier” can only help the standard improve as aims high with his team.
“The standard of hockey is going to be a little higher as we move into what is effectively the old EPL and I’m hopeful we’ll be competing and aiming for the top half of the table,” he told the British Ice Hockey podcast.
“The competition is fantastic and from our point of view, we were hoping for it to come back after the EPL went a couple of years ago.
“For the fans, it’ll be good for them to know that whoever we’re going to play, it’s going to be a really hard fought game.
“I mean no disrespect to the teams we’ve played, but this needed to happen from a playing, spectators and even a development point of view to in some way allow us to the close the gap on the Elite League.”
Steeldogs warmed up for their season with two one-goal victories over Milton Keynes Lightning and are now full focussed on taking on Sam Zajac’s side on Sunday.
Morgan insists the mood in the camp is high as he looked ahead to the game with the Chiefs, revealing the summer was a tough one for him.
He added: “The mood is really high after two hard fought victories against Milton Keynes last weekend, a team many people have tipped to be up there come the end of the season.
“It’s too early to read into pre-season form, but it was pleasing to get those wins regardless and optimism is high at the moment.
“For the first time during my time as the coach, I’ve had to make some significant changes with eight or nine guys so some difficult decisions had to be made, but it’s a time of change and things are good.
“Looking to Sunday, I’ve got a lot of time and respect for Sammy and we’ve been in constant contact throughout the summer. It’s his first year in coaching and he’s put together a really experienced team.
“It’s good for promotion of the league, good for rivalry and I hope for Sammy, he gets the backing of everyone when they get to play on home ice and fingers crossed, he can get things up and running there.
“We’re full of optimism going into Sunday and we’re extremely privileged to be the curtain raiser for the new league along with a brand new team. It’s going to be great.”