Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers: there's no show like it

Local derby
Local derby

They come around quickly – but not quickly enough: that's Steelers home games at the Sheffield Arena against the arch enemy, Nottingham Panthers.

1 The rivalry is genuine. It dates back over 20 years. It's seen some dramatic, exciting and violent moments – it's why the fans love these big games, it's why they turn out in their thousands to watch them.

2: To acquire hero status at any sporting club takes longevity. Years of service, perhaps a history of winning championships and scoring important, historical goals. There is a quicker way, a way to negate all of that hard work – do something special in the Steelers Panthers series. Take Scott Levins for example, he only scored 12 goals in his Steelers career, hardly legendary status. Yet he scored his first 3 against the Panthers in a 4-3 come from behind victory. Add to that he beat Panther Dody Wood up in the process and what do you get? A Steelers legend.

Scott Allison had to work harder, in his five year Steelers career he was known for his all out full on play, gutsy performances and goal scoring exploits. Think of Allison though and really you remember his single man crusade against all things black and yellow. He brought huge goals and big fights. Most of all for leading the Steelers in the Battle of Lower Parliament Street in February 2001 – the man that single handily caused that famous bench clearance – true hero status.

3: Those who have worn both shirts – it only sometimes works and always in the Steelers favour. Many have crossed the divide but only a few have been accepted and succeeded.

Moving from Sheffield to Nottingham is a lot harder than moving in the other direction. Both Scott Allison and Dion Darling, great warriors and Steelers legends made the mistake of moving south. Allison in 2002-03 and Darling three years later. Not accepted, never the same players and a move regretted to this day by them both.

However move north and you have a chance, not only of success but of legendary status. Most noticeably Mike Blaisdell, the former Panthers head coach who after leading the Panthers was poached by the Steelers and went on to lead them to multiple league, cup and play off championships including the true Grand Slam of 2001.

Nottingham's most worshiped son, the great Paul Adey broke the locals hearts when he joined the Steelers in 2001, after years of wearing yellow and missing out on a championship Adey delivered success, not in their home kit but in the Steelers jersey. It still eats them that one.

4: It's a fact (honestly) that less food is consumed in both cities on match days as fans will ache and hurt from the moment they wake up on Sunday. No fried breakfast, no Sunday roast, their stomaches won't be able to take it. Bragging rights are still important and the geography between these two teams means that many Steeler fans work alongside a Panthers supporters, go to the same schools, clubs and churches. The funny thing is that it's not the joy of winning these games that matters the most, its not feeling the pain of losing. We want it because we all care so much.

5: The series counts towards the biggest prize. Beat the Panthers in the eight game Elite League series and your chances of delivering the biggest prize, the league title is improved.

At the very worst it will also put the brakes on the Panthers charge towards silverware. That league title is the prize craved by fans of Sheffield and Nottingham the most. It's the Panthers holly grail only delivering success once since 1956. In that time the Steelers delivered back in all era's of the game, the Premier League, the Super League and the Elite League.

Right now this season, the Steelers and Panthers shared Challenge Cup success with one home win each. Two weeks ago the Panthers drew first blood in the opening Elite League encounter in Nottingham

Now its the opening game of the league campaign here in the Steel City. Few guarantees can be made in sport but you can guarantee this for sure, emotion, passion, excitement, goals, aggression and a game where it really does mean something to everyone, players, fans, owners.