David Simms Sheffield Steelers’ ice hockey column: Our search for new fans has been a big success

Robert Dowd celebrates his first goal in the 4-1 victory over Fife Flyers
Robert Dowd celebrates his first goal in the 4-1 victory over Fife Flyers

The Steelers are back at home this Saturday for another game in their “Play Off Push” against league champions Cardiff Devils.

Two weeks ago the Steelers beat their rivals for this season’s championship, Belfast.

Last Saturday the Steelers demolished Fife 4-1 in a one-sided game.

Steelers will need a third home performance in a row of that magnitude if they are to take points off Cardiff.

One thing that will be the same this Saturday as in the previous two is that a huge crowd will be in attendance. Despite the Steelers position in the league, despite not challenging for the league or the Challenge Cup the Steelers attendance have continued to rise.

More than 8,500 last week for the Fife game.

Sales for Saturday’s game are also extraordinary and the last home league game against MK a week on Saturday is also expected to fill the building.

Our average attendances this year are over 6,000, they top the league’s attendance records and are the highest the Steelers have had in the Elite League era.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that the best way to increase your fanbase is to have a horrible season and then fight for the play offs. That blueprint wouldn’t work too many times.

One thing the Steelers have done well, may I say better than any other club is, continue their search for new fans.

The Steelers to you and me are almost 30 years old, we have all seen hundreds and hundreds of games but you would be amazed how many people in the local area don’t know who we are and haven’t seen us play.

The growth we have received is those new fans coming through the door and loving the night, the games are exciting, the atmosphere is still electric and the whole show of a Steelers game means you might not win but you will have a great night out with all of the family, kids, parents and grand parents.

One thing that certainly helped was the new contract the Steelers agreed with our landlords SIV.

Do you remember about this time last year when that was announced?

We inside the club were going crazy and a lot of fans were thinking “what’s the big deal.”

Well for one our weekend schedule was miles better than in previous years.

Records show that “Saturday night is hockey night in Sheffield.”

Secondly we moved all our games from Ice Sheffield to the Arena.

We kept our season ticket games for the weekend games and those previous Ice Sheffield games we played mid week in the Arena, and because of the new deal with SIV we experimented with a £5 ticket for those games.

Those games caught on and attracted new fans because of the £5 nature.

Those first time fans then came to watch us play our weekend games, many of those will become season ticket holders this summer.

Add to that we have managed to insert two weekend £5 games, just like last Saturday, with 8,500 plus coming into see us.

Those £5 nights are a great introduction into the Steelers and the sport, we have been lucky enough to have been in the position where we could do that.

Both Tony Smith (Steelers) and Dom Stokes (SIV/Arena) had the foresight that by working together they would see growth in both of their business.

That has happened.

These last two league games this Saturday and next are hugely important to how the year ends.

Win them both and the play offs will be made, beat MK and or Belfast in our two road games and at least a reasonable league position will be achieved.

Results I can’t guarantee, huge crows, incredible support and a brilliant atmosphere I can.

See you on Saturday.