Sheffield Steelers and Sheffield Steeldogs have announced a partnership aimed at helping to develop players and strengthen a bond between the clubs.
As part of the new deal, it sees Jordan Griffin and Alex Graham join the NIHL National side on two-way contracts and gain some ice time in with the Steeldogs, but provide cover for Steelers when required.
It could also see players like Cole Shudra and Kieron Brown turn out for Steeldogs as well, depending on the needs of the EIHL side.
It’s an exciting partnership that will sees respective coaches, Steelers’ Aaron Fox and his Steeldogs counterpart Ben Morgan, a former Steelers player, work closely together, starting next week in the Steeldogs Prospect trials.
Steelers owner Tony Smith was pleased to announce the new joint venture and is looking forward to see how it bears fruit.
“We’re delighted to get this deal over the line with the Steeldogs,” he said. “We have always wanted to be a part of a pathway where the youngsters playing at Ice Sheffield could see their way to skating out at the Arena as a Steeler.
— Sheffield Steeldogs (@SteeldogsIHC) August 2, 2019
“It’s been done before by the likes of Cole Shudra and Liam Kirk but we want to see it happen a lot more often and this collaboration between both clubs will certainly assist the process.
“Now it’s time for the hockey people to take over and do their stuff, I know Aaron and Ben have a good relationship and will communicate constantly.
“I look forward to seeing the Steeldogs attend Steelers games at the Arena this year when their schedule allows. This partnership on and off the ice is good for everyone and we will work hard to ensure it is successful.”
Co-owner of Sheffield Steeldogs Ali Cree believes it’s a big step that can help the development of players in the UK in the long run.
He added: “Since day one when we took on the ownership of the Steeldogs, it’s been a priority to reconnect with Steelers management and at the other end of the scale Sheffield Academy and neighbouring junior teams, to provide pathways for young talent.
“Our aim is to provide the best hockey pathway within the UK from junior right through to senior, elite hockey and I feel that this is a monumental step to build something to help hockey develop in Sheffield and wider across the UK.
Both coaches spoke of their delight as they forge a new working relationship and Steelers head coach Aaron Fox says he and Morgan are already on the same wavelength about the direction of this new partnership.
He said: “This affiliation gives us an option for our younger guys to develop locally if they aren’t playing consistent minutes with us. This way they are still practicing with us during the week and able to easily transition to the Steeldogs on the weekends.
“Ben and I have had some good chats. We are both on the same page and think this mutually benefits both clubs. I’m looking forward to this partnership and working together.”
Morgan added: “Aaron has been very clear that he wants to create a pathway for developing young players and he sees the Steeldogs as the perfect club to allow his players to train with the Steelers day in, day out and then play with us to get quality ice time.
“I’m looking forward to working with Jordan and Kieran who I’ve only played against before and it will be great to work with Cole again – it’s been a few years since he was with us, so if we get to work with him it’ll be interesting to see how he has developed.
“It’s massive even just to have Alex back. We had already been making plans for his development as he had showed he was ready for the step up to the NIHL and I think it will be a really interesting season for Alex in the new National Division.”