The Monday After – Is Panthers and Steelers still the biggest EIHL rivalry?

Nottingham Panthers meet Sheffield Steelers over the festive period, but is it still the Elite League's biggest rivalry? (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

IS PANTHERS AND STEELERS STILL THE BIGGEST EIHL RIVALRY?

It’s a game that’s been marketed very well, particularly this week when there are two of them, but with both clubs no longer the dominant forces they were in the Elite League, is Nottingham Panthers vs Sheffield Steelers still the biggest rivalry in the league?

Naturally, as the two biggest arena teams, they’ll tell you they are and generally, meetings between them have been interesting and at times, fiery.

But with the league becoming more and more tighter and the emergence of one or two other rivalries, is this one the daddy of them all?

Up until the last couple of years, Nottingham and Sheffield were the teams scooping up a lot of trophies between them, picking up 19 out of 30 available between 2007-08 and 2016-17 and last season was the first since 2005-06 where neither picked up any silverware.

Off the ice, both teams sell it brilliantly and the chirping on social media goes on throughout the season between both sets of fans.  Most of it good natured.  Some of it, less so.

It will build up in the next couple of days between opening presents and eating turkey and with the Boxing Day game in Nottingham sold out, with a webcast set up to make it as widely available as possible, this is a huge one.

When the teams meet a day later, it will be live on FreeSports and Steelers have under 1,000 seats left at the time of writing, so you would expect the Fly DSA Arena will fill up nicely.

Put it up against other emerging rivalries, like the one between Fife Flyers and Glasgow Clan for example, which has really grown in recent years, the Panthers-Steelers game is certainly based on a background of success.

The one involving the Scottish teams stems from the fans and their online presence of the fact they simply don’t like each other.  Sure, it’s watchable and you very rarely get a game that doesn’t entertain or excite.

Panthers and Steelers are the same and it’s probably the biggest game in terms of the structure of the teams. But will fans outside these two sets of supporters go out their way to watch it?

I would reckon they would, out of interest more than anything, but we’re in an era where Panthers have a coach in his first year replacing a man who spent 10 successful years there, winning multiple trophies.

Then on the other side, a team that saw their coach leave in the early weeks of the season, replaced by a man with a good pedigree, in many ways, still finding his feet in this country and fixing things as he goes.

The point is, these are two teams in transition and while one might win a trophy this year, they’ve got lots of work to do in catching current champions, Cardiff Devils and leaders, Belfast Giants, who are on another level at the moment.

They may be the big guns they’ve been in the recent past, but it is a game that can be held up as a jewel in the crown for the Elite League and as long as fans buy into it and really get involved, it will continue to be a huge rivalry for years to come.

SEASONAL CHEER

I just want to wrap up this Christmas Eve post by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and I hope you all get what you wish for.  Since British Ice Hockey returned at the start of November, it’s been good to be able to blog again and I’ve enjoyed the interaction so far.

We’ll talk to you soon once the turkey goes down and with plenty of games coming in the next few days, there will be plenty to catch up on soon.

Merry Christmas, hockey fans!

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