As the people of Chicago fondly call it, the ‘Windy City’ is more than just the iconic skyline, deep dish pizzas, and the home of the Cubs. For years, the city has been a melting pot of diverse cultures and a hotbed of sports rivalry. And when it comes to hockey, there is one team that has truly carved a name for itself in the history books – the Chicago Steel.
Founded in 1982, the Chicago Steel have been an integral part of the USHL (United States Hockey League) and have been a force to be reckoned with in the world of minor hockey. As one of the oldest franchises in the league, the Steel have produced numerous NHL talents and have competed fiercely against their biggest rivals, making for some of the most memorable and important matchups in the team’s history.
In this article, we take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the most important matchups in the Steel’s history, and the impact they had on the team’s journey to becoming one of the top teams in minor hockey.
Steel vs. Muskegon Lumberjacks
The rivalry between the Steel and the Muskegon Lumberjacks can be traced back to the early days of the USHL, when both teams were part of the Great Lakes Division. With both teams being geographically close, the rivalry quickly intensified, with fans of each team passionately cheering for their side.
The first ever matchup between the two teams took place on November 12, 1994, and resulted in a 4-1 victory for the Lumberjacks. However, as the years went by, the Steel started to gain momentum, and the rivalry became even more intense. In the 2017-2018 season, the two teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Steel clinching the series in six games, and going on to win their first Clark Cup championship.
Steel vs. Team USA
The Chicago Steel have always had a strong bond with Team USA, with many players from the Steel going on to represent the national team at the IIHF World Junior Championships. The two teams have faced off countless times throughout their histories, but one matchup that stands out above the rest was the game played on January 17, 2009.
The Steel were hosting Team USA’s U18 team, which at the time, was stacked with future NHL stars such as Seth Jones, Alex Galchenyuk, and Sean Kuraly. The Steel were the underdogs going into the game, but they battled hard and came out with a 4-3 victory, much to the delight of their home fans.
Steel vs. Green Bay Gamblers
The rivalry between the Steel and the Green Bay Gamblers can be best described as a ‘friendly’ one. The two teams have competed against each other many times, but there is always a sense of mutual respect and admiration between the players and fans.
However, the most important matchup between the two teams took place in the 2009-2010 season, when the Gamblers and the Steel faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals. After two hard-fought games, the Steel emerged as the victors, punching their ticket to their second Clark Cup Finals appearance in team history.
Steel vs. Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
The rivalry between the Steel and the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders is one of the oldest and most storied in the USHL. Throughout the years, the two teams have traded wins back-and-forth, but one matchup that stands out is the one that took place on October 8, 2010.
The RoughRiders had a commanding lead throughout the game, but the Steel refused to give up, and with just 1.9 seconds left on the clock, they scored the game-winning goal, stunning their opponents and sealing their spot in the record books for the biggest comeback in team history.
Steel vs. Central Illinois Flying Aces
The rivalry between the Steel and the Central Illinois Flying Aces is one that has a lot of history and tradition attached to it. The two teams have played each other in the first game of every USHL season since 2017, setting the tone for the rest of the season.
In the 2018-2019 season, the matchup between the two teams was even more crucial, as it marked the opening of the Steel’s brand-new home, the Fox Valley Ice Arena. And in front of a sold-out crowd, the Steel emerged victorious, kickstarting what would eventually turn out to be their best season in franchise history.
The Chicago Steel have had a long and illustrious journey in the USHL, and their success can be attributed to the intense and heated rivalries they have formed with some of the league’s top teams. From the Muskegon Lumberjacks to the Central Illinois Flying Aces, these matchups have played a crucial role in shaping the team’s identity and have given rise to some of the most memorable moments in the team’s history.
So, as the Steel continue to compete and strive for glory in the USHL, let us not forget the rich history and tradition that is attached to their most important matchups, and the impact they have had on the sport of hockey in the city of Chicago.