Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Steve Thornton praises call to expand import law

Steve Thornton waves to the crowd as he was announced as the new coach of the Belfast Giants. Pic Michael Cooper
Steve Thornton waves to the crowd as he was announced as the new coach of the Belfast Giants. Pic Michael Cooper

Steve Thornton has welcomed the Elite League's decision to increase the limit on the number of imports teams are allowed to ice.

From the start of next season, 12 non-British or Irish trained players will be permitted, although clubs will still only be allowed to fill 11 work permit slots.

The limit will be further increased by one in each of the following two seasons, which means the new Belfast Giants coach can cast his net even further when recruiting players.

"I still think that there has to be a focus on youth development and we need to keep our identity," said Thornton.

"Ultimately though my job is to put the best team on the ice to compete for trophies, irrespective of their passport, and the new rules are a positive in that respect.

"It opens up a potential European market for us, where guys don't need work permits, but I had a European passport when I played and we have Calvin Elfring, who is on a European passport too.

"Having already re-signed him the new rules may allow us to look at other options and I played in a few countries in Europe, so I have a good database of contacts."

Explaining the new rules, Elite League chairman, Tony Smith, said: "The league agreed that there is a shortage of top-level British players, which keeps the Elite League from being outstanding across the 10 teams.

"With the demand of the indigenous British player higher than ever in all leagues and with the potential for EU/dual-national players to develop into national-team players, it was felt this gradual increase would be beneficial to all."

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