All I want for Christmas is victory over the Panthers

Goal-mouth action from Steelers against Fife Flyers.
Goal-mouth action from Steelers against Fife Flyers.

How wrong many of you are. You sit there in your festive jumpers, eating your turkey and mince pies thinking that Christmas Day is December 25.

Wrong! Christmas doesn’t become Christmas until December 26 as that’s the day I get my present - Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers.

Over the years this has become the traditional Christmas fixture and don’t we love it. Next Monday, 7,000 plus fans will be in the Motorpoint Arena with a sold out 6,200 in the NIC Nottingham the day after.

The build up to the biggest hockey game on the calendar brings an ache in your stomach from the moment you wake up on Boxing Day.

It’s about saying to the wife, “Breakfast? I can’t eat anything let alone breakfast - it’s Boxing Day against the Panthers.”

You feel sick with anticipation. You check your watch every five minutes wanting it to jump forward until the time you leave the house. You can’t wait, you always leave early; you just want to be at the Arena where you’re among friends and fellow worshippers.

You can’t wait for the game to start but the reality is you can’t wait for the game to finish. You love the sport and the game, you love the occasion that is a Sheffield Steelers - Nottingham Panthers clash but you don’t enjoy the two-and-a-half-hours it takes.

You want just two things ... for the Steelers to win and for it to be over so you can then relax, breath and smile without that awful cramp in your body.

Some of my friends say it’s an illness I have. They can’t believe that I can still, after so many years, so many games, so many championships, make myself ill on a Steelers v Panthers game day. They say it’s an obsession and they may be right but to me the Steelers and the Panthers have given me the best and worst feelings I have ever had in my life.

I normally arrive at the Arena three hours before face off; there is no where else I should be. Boxing Day will be the same; early to bed on Christmas Day for me, I don’t want to wake up with a sore head or tired; I need to be at my best, at my sharpest. The Panthers are coming and we must all be prepared, all be ready for what they bring.

Some of you will read this and think ‘the bloke’s crazy and just writing this for effect.’ You may be right on count one but so far off on the second. This fixture has taken over my life for over a decade and my Christmas will depend on the outcome. If the Steelers win I will have had a great Christmas, everything else that has happened won’t matter, good or bad. If the Steelers go down then it won’t matter what good times I had before, what presents were left under the tree, how much effort others have put in on my behalf. I’m sorry but my Christmas will have stunk and I won’t be able to get back to work quick enough.

There is good news for the Steelers fans this year. This team, the first for a couple of seasons, seem to have bought into my way of thinking. This Steelers team doesn’t like this Nottingham side at all and head coach Ryan Finnerty doesn’t like his Nottingham counterpart Corey Neilson. The feeling is mutual.

The other good news is that while on the ice there will be big hits, a few fights and lots of aggression there will be a party atmosphere. Great banter, no sign of any trouble, just several thousand people letting go, giving their all for their team.

I will be sat 300 feet up in the room they call the ‘White House’ announcing ... with oxygen at the ready.

Peace on earth, good will to all men, save the planet, feed the world? No I’m sorry, I know it’s selfish but all I want for Christmas is a Steelers victory over the Panthers on Boxing Day. See you there at 5pm.

Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers, December 26. Ticket information: Telephone 0114 2565656.