Sheffield Steelers: Why Bob Westerdale can't wait for this clash between two titans of British ice hockey

In my privileged position which allows me to write ice hockey stories for The Star, I have enjoyed watching some fabulous contests between Sheffield Steelers and Cardiff Devils.

By Bob Westerdale
Friday, 18th February 2022, 2:37 pm
Sheffield Steelers' Daine Todd in action
Sheffield Steelers' Daine Todd in action

The two are titans of modern hockey.

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Of course, I have loved the passion that Steeler games with Nottingham Panthers routinely demonstrate and I fondly recall the changing-of-the-guard when Durham Wasps were kings about to lose their crown. But games against Cardiff have something different about them, over the years.

Take the Welsh national anthem for a start. I'm English, but it's hard not to feel goosebumps at The Cardiff Arena when the fans sing their hearts out pre-game. Any side that goes into that lion's den has to scrap every single shift.

And it's not much different when you face them in your own barn. They just take their feistiness on the road with them. Cardiff are not just a club, they are a national gem. So with that in mind, I am really looking forward to this Sunday's clash.

This will be the 230th game between the two sides, 109th in Sheffield. Steelers have won 63, lost 36, and drawn 10 of the games at their own Arena. History favours the home teams in this long-standing duel.

Cardiff score more goals in this match-up, though. Look at how it all started: They hammered Sheffield 16-5 in a bizarre exhibition game on the 17th November, 1992. Sheffield's first competitive win against Cardiff was in the British Premier League on the 27th November, 1993 (9-7 Steelers' win.)

Sheffield Steelers fans

Things were so, so different then. Lots of goals and fights, not that much in the way of defending or goaltending.

It is impossible to call which way Sunday's game will go. While it is highly unlikely it will be the goalfest of yesteryear, you can't rule that out either. In November, Devils won 5-0 in South Yorkshire. That was out of kilter with the other three results between the teams so far, though.

So it is all to play for, although I wouldn't mind a side-bet that Marco Vallerand scores. He is found the net only once so far in the four EIHL games against Cardiff. With coach Aaron Fox describing him as the Elite League's best player, and the fact that Glasgow Clan kept him off the sheet in Wednesday's 5-3 defeat, he will be pumped and ready to go.

But it is no good beating Cardiff if you slip up against Manchester Storm, whom they face first, away, on Saturday. Storm are next to the bottom of the EIHL table and battling for a playoff spot, as Glasgow Clan were on Wednesday.

Sheffield Steelers in action against Glasgow

One player certainly braced for coming events is defenceman Daine Todd, who has played a starring role throughout, after coming back to the game from long-term injury. He said he's grateful to be playing in a largely-winning team at Steelers. But he isn't committing to next season at the club. "We'll see how things go" he said, saying he'll evaluate his position at the end of the campaign.

Fingers crossed that he does - and that he and the rest have a four-point weekend.