Talking about rivalries

“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..

pantherssteelers
Panthers v Steelers – Picture from eliteleague.co.uk

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.

5 thoughts on “Talking about rivalries”

  1. Guildford – MK? On what grounds, that we both came into the league at the same time from the same place? If anything, I’d say the Blaze-MK rivalry was growing stronger with each season, and certainly the games are better attended on both sides than MK-Guildford ones…

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    1. I have to agree Maz, I do think that the rivalry between MK and Coventry is a truer one than this perceived one between MK and Guildford. Coventry and MK have definite proximity and are what a lot of people would consider a true derby (as close to one as we have in hockey anyway) and the fans turn out which supports that.

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  2. Having watched the Storm since the club formed back in 2015, it does feel like most of the rivalries are ‘forced’ rivalries than anything else. The Storm originals v Sheffield games back in the day were always exciting matches, but it always had a sense of an ‘England v Germany’ rivalry, where Sheffield didn’t see Manchester as a rival as such and so playing the part of Germany, they saw Nottingham as their Netherlands and their bigger rival. With the Clan, it seems to be a one-way rivalry with Glasgow fans hating Storm due to Finnerty bringing half their roster from Scotland down to England, while Storm fans have never seen them as big rivals, only friendly ones. With Fife, the incident involving Neilson and the fan has been the only thing in truth that pops into my head. Plus up until Finnerty came to Altrincham, the club has never had a real proper rivalry. To borrow a nickname from Baseball, the Storm in early couple of seasons were seen as the ‘loveable losers’ a term used against the Chicago Cubs in the sense that they would lose out but were like a second team to many knowing that would win anything. However, much like the Cubs once they won the World Series – things began to change as after the takeover happened, it saw the side bloodying a few noses and checking them hard into the boards – which saw fans beginning to dislike the club and most of all the way they played. For me, they remain the only side without a real rivalry, though I agree with you Mark on the Sheffield/Storm thing, as I feel that is mostly due to both sides being evenly matched this season as Sheffield have had an extremely bad season. I’m sure pretty much all of the Storm fans will disagree with me on it, but that is my take having watched them.

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  3. I think I’m on your wavelength Mark. Steelers vs. Panthers is still the biggest game in this sport, in this country, in terms of how many bums it puts in seats; and to misquote Kevin Keegan I love it when we beat them, but the rivalry has lost its edge over the last few years. A mixture of neither team being top contenders at the same time for a while, and the fact its over-saturated in terms of how often we play each other. The mentality of the league has changed a little too, fewer enforcers and “goons” who loved to hate the opponents in those head-to-heads. The league is better for it overall, but derby games do seem a little flatter without them.

    I agree the Storm are becoming the new big rival for the Steelers. I missed them when they were gone, but there is that little spark to Steelers/Storm matches these days.

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