Sheffield Steelers' date with FIVE MILLIONTH fan

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Steelers are getting ready to welcome their five millionth fan into Sheffield Arena!

That's how many people will have filled the stands since the club started icing in the steel city back in 1991.

For the early path-finders like Ronnie Wood, David Gardener-Brown, Ron Shudra, Alex Dampier and David Simms, it yields a remarkable achievement.

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Few people could have guessed the ice hockey club would keep afloat - with what to many was a brand new sport - and then go on and cement itself as an integral part of the South Yorkshire sporting landscape.

Early days Steelers - it's been a riotEarly days Steelers - it's been a riot
Early days Steelers - it's been a riot

Sheffield Arena had been constructed in the east end as part of the city's World Student Game programme, and remains a jewel in the crown of the city, as well home to the EIHL club.

And appropriately, that five million figure (courtesy of should be clocked up a week on Saturday, when Sheffield host their closest rivals, Nottingham Panthers.

It's a unique milestone.

However, the team and its coaching staff will be concentrating more on the task at hand, a Challenge Cup trip to Nottingham on Saturday before Sunday's important league game at home to Fife Flyers.

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Ron Shudra, Tim Cranston and Neil Abel - Steeler stalwartsRon Shudra, Tim Cranston and Neil Abel - Steeler stalwarts
Ron Shudra, Tim Cranston and Neil Abel - Steeler stalwarts

Steelers won't be expecting the same generous hosting from Nottingham as they provided last month.

Then, Panthers bent over backwards to welcome Steelers to their Motorpoint Arena, their defence conceding twice in four minutes and three times in 16.

By the end of a relaxing Cup night for Sheffield, they had run up a 6-0 scoreline.

It was a wretched night for home coach Jonathan Parades.

Alex Dampier, architect of much of the early successAlex Dampier, architect of much of the early success
Alex Dampier, architect of much of the early success

And the size of the margin will provide plenty of motivation when the rivals lock horns again on Saturday.

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Brett Neumann, who assisted on the third goal in September, won't be fooled that this match will be anything like that experience.

"I still think they are a really strong team," said the player who wasn't born when Steelers arrived on the planet.

"In the pre-season, in that second game against them, they beat us by one there, (4-3) they are tough to play against.

Early daysEarly days
Early days

"I know they have a very strong line up it's just a matter of consistency for them, I think.

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"We have to prepare for their very best because we know they have it and have the potential to be a very good team when they are playing the right way.

"We cannot take that one lightly."

Looking back at the 6-0 victory, Neumann said: "It is always nice to come out of the gates flying like that and get off to a hot start which we did with a great first period."

But now it was time to again "come in prepared" and hope the bounces go their way.

His coach is in little doubt that a tough night may lie ahead.

"We know it is never an easy place to play," said Fox.

"They have got some good results since then as well.

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"We caught them on an off-night and we were rolling pretty good. We cannot expect to win games like that a lot."

Having said that, Fox insists his side can beat any other EIHL line up if we are playing their best.

Nottingham have won their last three league games, including a 3-2 victory over Cardiff Devils.