Ice Hockey: New dimension to Sheffield/Leeds rivalry as Chiefs and Steeldogs prepare to face off in new NIHL National Division

Ice hockey will be a new battleground for the Sheffield versus Leeds sporting rivalry when the new NIHL National Division faces off.

Friday, 19th July 2019, 11:40 am
Updated Friday, 19th July 2019, 2:58 pm
Greg Wood

Sheffield Steeldogs will have new outfit Leeds Chiefs on their doorsteps - and it shouldn't take long to build a keen competitiveness on the pad and in the stands.

Greg Wood, Dogs' assistant coach, is looking forward to locking horns with Leeds in a league which also features Milton Keynes Lightning, Leeds Chiefs, Hull Pirates and Telford Tigers.

"You look at sporting rivalries, the football teams and everything else - it's always a big rivalry, so hopefully we can generate that kind of rivalry between the two teams," said Wood.

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Some of the players Leeds have signed will be known to Dogs fans and that will help light the fuse, he said.

Among player coach Sam Zajac's roster will be Sam Gospel in goal; he played for Steelers briefly, and for Nottingham Panthers.

Sheffield-born winger Chris Sykes, a former Steeldogs, Hull Stingrays and Sutton Sting player, has joined Leeds after six seasons with Billingham Stars. He has played more than 200 games at NIHL 1 level.

Wood believes the Leeds rink, on Elland Road, may not be ready for the start of the season, meaning Chiefs could have to play their initial fixtures on the road.

"But hopefully it is done sooner rather than later, get off to a flyer, get into their barn and get things up and running," said Wood.

The Dogs' boss expects Chief to have a bigger budget than them: "So far they look competitive and we will be looking forward to matching up against them."

Until now, Hull have been Dogs' rink-filling greatest rivals, but that could be eclipsed.

"You know what their fans (Leeds) are like, very passionate about their sporting icons and I am sure the ice hockey team won't be any different."

He said with full stands and with adrenaline pumping on the ice, there will always be something to play for when the South and West Yorkshire teams collide.

Dogs and Chiefs will embark on a 52-game regular season, probably launched on the weekend of September 14-15.

Meanwhile, speculation is mounting that Sheffield Steelers' goalie Jackson Whistle could be on the move. The player is contracted to the club for next year, but may be examining his options now a new import goalie is being scouted, as competition for the spot.