On Nov. 5, 2010, Clemson and South Carolina players will strap on their helmets, pull their jerseys over their shoulder pads and prepare to square off in the Palmetto State Showdown in Greenville.
Now if you stopped reading this after that sentence and immediately went to your computer to post a message about how stupid I am, you jumped the gun. (There’ll be plenty of time to post a message about how stupid I am once you read the entire column.)
I am fully aware that the Tigers and Gamecocks don’t meet on the gridiron until Nov. 27, and I’m also confident they meet at Memorial Stadium.
But before more than 80,000 football fans mosey into Death Valley to watch their schools collide, the teams will meet in another collision sport 22 days earlier.
Clemson and USC each have ice hockey teams, and they’ll square off Nov. 5, 10 p.m, at the Bi-Lo Center.
These are club teams, so you won’t see any pep rallies surrounding the game or the presidents of the two schools make a friendly wager on the outcome.
Still, the game is yet another example of how an “alien” sports such as ice hockey has been able to develop a toehold in the state of South Carolina.
On Thursday I was at the Bi-Lo Center to watch the debut of the Greenville Road Warriors. they are the Upstate’s newest entry in the ECHL, a minor league equivalent in quality to what AA baseball is to the big leagues.
On Oct. 12 the Road Warriors hosted the South Carolina (North Charleston) Stingrays in an exhibition, and roughly 4,000 fans showed up for a glorified practice.
Two nights ago the regular season officially began, with Greenville beating the Florida Everblades, 4-1.
More than 4,500 patrons paid full price to enjoy the evening — and I’m guessing many of those folks, like myself, have never, ever played ice hockey.
Still, if you love football it’s pretty easy to fall in love with hockey because it is definitely a contact sport.
Heck, if you like NASCAR you’d probably like hockey. it has plenty of high-speed crashes.
I suspect there were several members of Clemson’s hockey team (and maybe even some USC players) watching the Road Warriors play on Thursday. And I imagine a few of them likely didn’t grow up with a strong hockey background.
But they learned to love it — and to play it.
Of course football is king in the Palmetto State, and that will never change.
But the Tiger and Gamecock amateurs — along with the pros playing out of Greenville and Charleston — are showing that there’s a place for another high speed, high-impact sport in Carolina.