Robby Sandrock is delighted by UK ice hockey's superior play
Robby Sandrock has praised team owners across the Elite League for a change in approach that has brought about an increase in the level of play in UK ice hockey.
And Sandrock believes that the improvement is such that it is almost as good as it was more than a decade ago.
Sandrock was part of the Gians team that won the Play-off title in 2003 before an already ailing Superleague set up crashed completely just a few weeks later.
The Elite League era started slowly, but now, after 10 seasons it is again attracting star names who aren't long out of the NHL, such as the Giants' recent arrival Kevin Westgarth.
"I think that the Elite League is now really close to matching the level of the old Superleague," said Sandrock.
"I was away for nine years, so it's a little hard to say exactly, but it's not far away.
"When I was here before there were hardly any UK kids on the teams, but they have stepped up and are a big part of it now.
"I think the Elite League and Superleague are comparable. This is my third season since I came back to Belfast and I have seen it improve year-on-year in that time."
The Giants face the Cardiff Devils in a double header in the Welsh capital this weekend.
There is history between the teams over recent seasons and they were involved in a couple of feisty pre-season battles back in August, but Sandrock believes that moves to take fighting out of the game have played a part in the improvement.
"As the league gets better it gets more and more recognition. It used to be thought of as a goon league and there were teams that filled their rosters with tough guys," said Sandrock.
"It has come away from that and the NHL has gone that way, with a lot less fights taking place.
"The league has done a good job in taking that out of the game as have the teams in changing how they build their rosters.
"Yes, it is part of the games and the fans want to see it, but they also want to see entertaining hockey and see their team score goals and I think it's created a better league."
• The Challenge Cup semi-final draw will take place on the ice during the first break at the Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers match tonight.
The Belfast Giants face the Cardiff Devils in the quarter finals with the other last-eight match ups being: Braehead v Coventry or Hull, Sheffield v Dundee and Fife v Nottingham.