Sheffield Steelers: Has ‘derby’ passion lost its vibrancy?

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Steelers’ assistant coach Marc Lefebvre can vividly remember the first time he heard the words ‘Nottingham Panthers.’

“It was the summer of 2003” he recalled.

Tim Spencer takes the fight to a Panther in a Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham game

Tim Spencer takes the fight to a Panther in a Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham game

“The then-coach Mike Blaisdell was recruiting me and told me about the Sheffield v Nottingham rivalry. The way he explained it sent the hair on the back of my neck standing up. In his voice was a hatred. It was made clear to all of us back then that the most important thing in our season was to beat Nottingham. I remember arriving and being shown the video of the bench-clearance brawls. The club drummed it into you back then that the Nottingham word was one not to be used lightly.”

Lefebvre says the rivalry changed during his seven years away: “I don’t think that hatred exists now as it used to; saying that Edmonton and Calgary used to hate each other and now its just a little heated when they play.

“The lack of hatred may be down to society and how we all have changed in recent years. To me any game between Steelers and Panthers is a war. It’s the biggest game in my calendar. Panthers’ games are easiest to get up for. I know there are a few of us old dinosaurs left but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I come from that school, I can still hear Blazer’s words now!”

The Sheffield assistant coach said ”diligent preparation” had been vital before a weekend of this nature: Steelers host Panthers than play the return leg on Sunday. “We know how dangerous Nottingham are. Since my first spell over here they have become the benchmark to all other clubs. They are what we are aiming at. Now both teams have the opportunity to light a spark under the rivalry once again.

“If either team can do the double then it sets the losing club on an uphill battle for the rest of the year. We will have that spark for these games I’m sure” said Lefebvre. “I don’t sleep the night before these games; that’s the way I am. I can sleep another time.”

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