The NFC executive are fully committed to making the league and the season work. More news on the repercussions and solutions to follow.
NFC president, and former team coach, Barry Rushon was contacted Thursday night and told “we’d be dropping out this year,” head coach Frank Reid told The Sault Star.
“It’s better to default early than during the season, which just causes a whole bunch of confusion and problems for the league,” he said. “It’s better to do it now than it is to wait.”
The team’s season was scheduled to start with a home game against North Bay on May 27.
Only about 15 players committed to playing for the semi-professional team this summer. Reid wanted close to 30.
“We just didn’t get (the numbers),” said Reid.
A light bench was also a common problem for road games during the 2016 campaign. Reid’s concerned too few players increases the likelihood of injuries, compounding the limited roster.
He and his coaching staff are “not really sure” why enough players couldn’t be recruited given possible talent available from several sources including high school and university teams and Sault Sabercats.
“There just doesn’t seem to be any interest out there right now,” said the team’s former defensive co-ordinator who began his current role in 2016. “It’s been very difficult and frustrating. to be honest with you.”
Reid suggests some younger players may be intimidated playing in a league that features some former Canadian Football League talent.
“Maybe a lot of people are under the misconception that they can’t play at that level,” he said. “I think they can.”
Reid noted the accomplishments of Sault products Alex Morrison and Jordan Hoover, recently drafted by Montreal Alouettes and Edmonton Eskimos.
He says young Sault players are “very high skilled (and) well coached” at city high schools.
“These kids (Morrison, Hoover) are getting the recognition,” said Reid. “I’m not worried about the skills.”
The team has about six months to drum up enough player interest to return to the NFC in 2018. Team meetings begin in November.
“If there’s interest then somebody has to start coming forward,” said Reid. “It’s almost an immediate thing. People have to decide whether they want to play football.”
The Steelers can opt to stay on hiatus for more than a year, if they pay the required fee to the league.
“Taking this hiatus might be something that we can regroup and see what happens next year,” said Reid. “In saying that, next year starts very soon.”
He is keen to have the Steelers back on the field so there’s another option for football players from the city.
“We really want to grow, and continue these opportunities, for kids in Sault Ste. Marie and players in Sault Ste. Marie,” he said. “There is some frustration there, but I mean there’s not a lot you can do. You can’t beg people to come out. We want to see it survive.”
The Steelers won a Canadian championship in 1972. League titles followed in 1975, 1976 and 1980. The team disappeared in 1987 before returning in 1996 as Soo Storm. The Steelers name returned in 2003.
Team members in the league’s hall of fame include Steve Edwards and Robin Wood.
Eight teams will compete in the NFC this summer – Ottawa Invaders, GTA All Stars, Sudbury Spartans, Toronto Raiders, Steel City Patriots, Oakville Longhorns, Tri-City Outlaws and North Bay Bulldogs.
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