“This is a rivalry
This is between you and me..”
So the chorus of the Airbourne song goes. Every sport has a rivalry, I mean you have derby games between teams in football, rugby and dare I say it – even golf has it’s own billed rivalry in the shape of the bi-annual Ryder Cup between the United States and Europe. Hockey is no exception to the rule. However in this one off article I will discuss what I think the rivalry is for Sheffield Steelers these days. It’s not what most would let you believe it is.
When I first started watching this wonderful sport many moons ago, I’m actually in my 39th season to be precise, there were proper rivalries in place and boy were they intense ones. You had games featuring Scottish clubs Fife and Murrayfield North of the Border, Durham against Billingham here in England, and then you could chuck the Panthers into the equation. These were real games, no quarter given whatsoever. Every team used to raise their game when they were facing a club they really wanted to beat.
Steelers biggest rivals geographically should be the Panthers, after all they are the team that they have played more times than anyone. This Saturday’s game will be the 259th time they have faced off against each other since that first encounter on the 22nd of August 1992 which the Panthers took by the odd goal in seven. There have been some memorable encounters in the years following. I mean; who can forget the 10-1 hammering the Steelers dished out just days after sacking Don McKee in 1999 and then there’s the 8-0 Challenge Cup humbling that the Panthers handed in 2016. Of course it’s hard not to discount that famous bench clearance in 2001 too.
However, it’s my belief and I know there are others too, that this rivalry has become some what diluted over recent years. People like David Simms and Gary Moran can whip the games up into a frenzy but a number of games have been damp squibs afterwards and forgettable. Perhaps one of the most creditable reasons that people have said why they think it’s become diluted, is that the clubs play each other far too many times in a season these days. I mean, not too long ago, we faced them around 14 or 15 times in all competitions. Overkill? You can blame the fixture list maybe for that one..
So who do I think the Steelers biggest rivals are? Well since the Storm came back into the Elite League fold, these games are starting to build a bit of blue touchpaper waiting to be lit. Neither is there any love lost when the Steelers take on Cardiff and Belfast respectively. I seem to find the games that involve the Steelers in a match up against any of these three has a bit more spice than the Panthers ones. But that’s just my thoughts, and I don’t expect everyone to nod their head collectively and agree.
There are rivalries building up elsewhere in the Elite League too. You have Glasgow – Fife, Cardiff – Coventry, Guildford – Milton Keynes for example and to a lesser extent Panthers – Glasgow as they are owned by the same person. Each of them has it’s own spice and excitement, just like the olden days. Perhaps if teams didn’t play each other as often as they do now, the much maligned Challenge Cup doesn’t help at all, then some of the old rivalries would re-ignite themselves. But am I asking too much here?
One thing is for sure, hockey still needs these games to keep the fires of interest alive. What’s your take on it? Let me know.