SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS and Leeds Chiefs will make history after being scheduled to open the inaugural NIHL National season in September.
The Yorkshire rivals will face off against each other at Ice Sheffield on Sunday, September 14, the only game that weekend with the other eight teams in the new league not beginning their regular season campaigns until the following weekend. It will also be Leeds' first-ever game.
With three Yorkshire teams involved in the league, there will be plenty of opportunities for derby rivalry to develop, with Hull Pirates also joining Leeds and Sheffield in the northern conference section of the league, while Swindon Wildcats, Peterborough Phantoms, Basingstoke Bison, Bracknell Bees and Romford-based Raiders make up the other conference.
Hull, Sheffield and Leeds will face each other eight times during the regular league season - four home, four away - with Hull's first-ever meeting with theChiefs taking place in East Yorkshire on Sunday, October 20.
The first meeting between Jason Hewitt's team and Ben Morgan's Steeldogs won't be too long coming with the two renewing the hostility they've built up over recent seasons when they face off in Sheffield on Saturday, September 28. Sheffield's first visit to Hull will be on Sunday, October 13.
Due to work needing to be completed on Leeds' new Elland Road rink, both teams will have to wait before making their first visit to the West Yorkshire venue, with the Steeldogs providing the Chiefs' first-ever opponents there on Sunday, November 3, while Hull are the visitors on Saturday, November 23.
Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac admitted that first game in Sheffield was going to be a special moment for his new team.
""It will be a massive moment when we first step out on the ice as the Chiefs, I’m sure it will be quite emotional as well," said the former Glasgow Clan, Telford and Whitley Bay defenceman. "It will have been a long time coming and it is obviously making history with it being the first competitive game for the club.
"A lot of our guys will be familiar with Sheffield, either having played there or played against them over the years, so we’ll know what we need to do and how we need to go about the game in order to get the result we’ll be looking for.
"I’m sure it will be a really competitive game, but then I'm convinced all the games are going to be really competitive in this league and there will be that extra bit of spice added with it being a Yorkshire derby."
Other notable derby dates come around the festive period including Sunday, December 22 when Hull host Leeds, with the Pirates and Steeldogs facing each other on Saturday, December 28 ahead of a return match in East Yorkshire 24 hours later.
Sheffield hosts Leeds on New Year's Eve, with Hull welcoming in the New Year the following day with a visit from the Chiefs.