Should British ice hockey welcome more foreign players every year?

Sheffield's stars of the future
Sheffield's stars of the future

Sheffield Steelers’ golden boy Rob Dowd has been an outspoken advocate of more homegrown players in the top level of British ice hockey for more years than he cares to remember.

And while he is excited about the multi-cultural influences in this coming season’s side (seven Canadians, three Americans, three Swedes and a Latvian) he admits to wishing more Brits were available.

Steelers will have five regular UK skaters, Dowd, Jonathan Phillips, Luke Ferrara, Davey Phillips and Ben O’Connor, and have also offered three year apprentice contracts to 17-year-old Cole Shudra and Liam Kirk, 16.

“Yeah, it would be nicer if there was more homegrown players” said Dowd, an assistant captain with the Great Britain national side.

“You have to say that it’s not ideal how many Brits there are in the top flight, ofcourse you’d want more British youngsters coming through.

“If things now were like that when I was a kid coming through I’d have never got a shot at being in the team” said Dowd, who did his apprenticeship at Billingham and Sheffield Scimitars .

“Matty (Steeler coach Dave Matsos 2006-10) took a risk by bringing me in.

“I remember telling him I would rather stay in the EPL and excel rather than sit out, and we came to an understanding that I’d get on the ice for Steelers- there were about eight Brits in the side then.

“It was a risk - but he took it and it worked for me. Now more imports are coming into the game every year.

“Maybe in a couple of years, with Brexit, that will change, nobody has an idea right now.

“But I imagine Thommo, (coach Paul Thompson) as a former GB coach, would like more Brits too. He’d want to give players a chance and it’s great that as a club we are trying to filter in the likes of Cole Shudra and Liam Kirk.

“I’m sure Luke Ferrara is going to have a good year. He has put some beef on in the summer. When he got a chance last year he certainly produced, getting a couple of points (give goals, six assists.) Maybe this is his chance to really break into the team instead of paying his dues.

“We certainly saw flashes of what he was capable of, last season.

“Offensively, he is very gifted. He sees the ice pretty well, he is not a robotic third liner who chips the puck in and then gets off the ice.

“We need more like him coming through” said Dowd, 28.

* Latvian goalie Ervins Mustukovs has arrived in Sheffield after driving 1,600 miles from his home country.

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