TRY as he and others around him might, this weekend won’t quite be like any other this season for Sheffield Steelers‘ defenceman Danny Meyers.
After being jettisoned by Nottingham Panthers player-coach Corey Neilson just days after lifting the Elite League play-off trophy for a second successive year, Meyers soon found himself heading up the M1 to hook up with their arch-rivals at the Motorpoint Arena.
Meyers’s controversial switch adds some welcome spice to what is already the most eagerly-anticipated fixture of the season. Steelers against Panthers affairs are always keenly-fought, tempestuous affairs - the extra ingredient of Meyers now being on the opposite side will surely only boost the intensity level.
Having quickly settled into his new surroundings, Meyers stresses his 100 per cent commitment to being a Steeler, but acknowledges Saturday’s meeting at the National Ice Centre - his first return to the arena where he was so popular for six seasons, four as captain - will be a unique occasion for him.
“I’m trying to stay as relaxed as possible about it,” said Meyers. “It’s obviously going to be a big emotional game, regardless of it being my return there - these are big, emotional games anyway.
“I’ve waited so long for this game but you don’t want to get too hyped up, not too excited. I’m playing it cool right now but I’m sure there’ll be a few butterflies on the day of the game.
“I’ve still got a lot of friends on that team and I made many friends in Nottingham in the last six years and I’ve got quite a close affiliation with the club.
“But, having said that, I’m loving being here in Sheffield. I enjoy being around my new team-mates, I enjoy playing for Finner (Ryan Finnerty, Steelers head coach) and this organisation. And with regards to the game itself, I’ll be 100 per cent a Steeler.”
The departure of Meyers seemingly split fans of both clubs and while Steelers’ fans seem to have quickly accepted the 29-year-old as one of their own, he admits he doesn’t know what kind of reception he will get from the home fans on Saturday night.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” added Meyers. “I can’t think too much about whether they are going to give me a good reception or a bad reception - it’s something that I can’t control.
“What I can control is how I play for my team and the impact I can have on the night, so that’s all I’m really concentrating on.”
Last season, Meyers was part of a Panthers team that put a large dent in Steelers’ title hopes, winning four out of the six league meetings between the two. With eight league meetings scheduled this time around following the off-season restructuring of the league, Meyers believes the Steelers-Panthers series has taken on even more importance.
“It could be argued that the series loss to the Panthers really dented the Steelers’ ambitions in the league,” he said.
“We certainly can’t have that kind of dominance against us this season, especially with us playing each other so many times. We can’t afford to lose so many games in this series against the Panthers. The series’ in our conference are extremely important.”
And while some may think the addition of two extra meetings between conference rivals this season may be too much, Meyers thinks it will only intensify the Panthers- Steelers rivalry.
“The first Steelers-Panthers game of the season is always the big one - as a player, and as a fan, you always want to win that first one,” explained the GB international.
“Don’t get me wrong this is no make-or-break game. You try telling fans on both sides that’s it’s just another game or that it’s been diluted (because of the extra games), I don’t think you’ll find anyone who will agree.
“In fact, if anything, I think it will only see the rivalry get bigger.”