Dave Simms column: why it’s imperative we get this right today

Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers - still the premium game in British ice hockey
Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers - still the premium game in British ice hockey

If I told you that today, Thursday, was the biggest day in the Steelers hockey schedule you wouldn’t believe me.

But on every level today is the biggest day we have as a club, from a playing perspective and from a financial point of view days don’t get any bigger than today.

Today is the Elite Ice Hockey League’s fixtures-setting meeting. Get it right and the club remains strong, stable and moving forward. Get it wrong and you can be swimming against the tide all year.

For over 20 years I represented the Steelers at fixtures meetings but I think the other clubs got fed up of me in these most robust of meetings where sometimes the loudest voice wins. So fed up in fact that they moved me off Steelers fixtures and made me chairman of the fixtures committee. Now I have to moderate all these loud voices.

For some clubs the fixtures meeting is a walk in the park. Take Cardiff, they have every Saturday and Sunday available, just take your pick. Fife every Saturday, Coventry the same. How lovely would that be?

Then look over the table at Gary Moran, Steve Thornton and Shaun Smith, the three poor so and so’s representing Belfast, Nottingham and Sheffield. There are many perks to playing inside the Odyssey Arena, NIC or Motorpoint Arena – however regular dates aren’t one of them, even when booked you’re hoping Kylie doesn’t fancy adding a last minute extra date.

In all fairness those at the Motorpoint now work a lot more closely with the Steelers than their predecessors. In an ideal world we in Sheffield would want this fixtures meeting in a month’s time rather than today.

The later we leave it the more certain we are that the dates we chose will remain available throughout the year. The good news is that the Motorpoint have provided us with enough weekend dates to keep the fans happy – or so we hope.

Whilst nothing is 100%, it is more than likely that the Steelers will be at home on Boxing Day against Nottingham. Panthers and Sheffield take it in turn for the Boxing Day game, Panthers however have advised us that they would prefer to play at home the following day leaving the 26th free – happy days for the biggest game of the year.

My job as chairman today is to appease both sides. Making sure the rink clubs get their dates but on the days that the arena teams have available weekend ice ensuring the others make those dates available to play on.

Add to that European hockey. Steelers and Braehead Clan won’t play the opening weekend of the league season because of their Champions Hockey League schedule. Coventry Blaze play in the second round of the Continental Cup, they should win that round-robin event meaning that not only will they be unavailable for one weekend but almost certainly two.

That causes problems, not only to the Blaze who have to make these games up but in a 10 team league when one club is missing nine doesn’t fit into two games a weekend for the rest of the clubs. Someone misses out on both Saturday and Sunday.

This year the league will virtually close for an international break in February - all teams with more than two GB players won’t participate in that weekends fixtures. Question though, how do we know today what the make-up of the National team will be in February? You see this fixtures meeting isn’t as easy as it seems!

Quick final reminder to Steelers fans regarding the 30th June which has two important deadlines. Firstly if you are a season ticket holder you only have until the 30th June to reserve your season ticket seats for the two Champions League games against JYP Jyvaskla on Sunday 30th August and Frolunda on Saturday 5th September.

They go on general sale the day after. For those who are still interested in a season ticket then the 30th June is the last day for the discounted “Early Bird” season ticket offer. Give the Steelers office a call for more information 0114 242 3535

And finally, the Holiday Inn Royal Victoria Cup at Ice Sheffield on the 15th / 16th August Vs Braehead Clan – the Champions league warm up event – Braehead fans have bought a shed load of tickets so please book yours early to ensure you see the Steelers first two home games of the year and send the boys off to the CHL games with a cheer.