Wait Is Over Panthers Win
The wait is over, 1956 is forgotten and the Nottingham Panthers can finally celebrate a top flight league championship. A win in Belfast last night gave the Panthers the 2 points they needed over their Irish rivals to be crowned Elite League champions for 2013.
It is a championship that is a long time coming. Despite being a powerhouse of the Elite League and a long standing member of the top flight of British hockey in whatever guise that may have been for over 30 years the Panthers have never come close to the title that they last won as the original Nottingham Panthers in 1956.
It is a victory that will be hated by many. The Panthers have become known for their big spending and many have taken a certain pleasure from the lack of Panthers success in building a league winning side. But this is a victory akin to the New York Rangers in 1994. A side that has had good teams and be picked as a favourite only to fall. A side that has hit the bottom and bounced back. A side in a big market with a big following and a story for the press to jump on.
There are other similarities too. Jonathan Weaver signed in the summer having had a successful career with the Coventry Blaze could be described as the Mark Messier of the side. A player in the twilight of a glittering career signed to offer leadership although there was no guarantee of a Panthers win from Weaver before this weekend. Even last nightâ€™s game in Belfast had a similar feel as the game seven in Madison Square Garden too. A tight affair which saw Panthers goalie Craig Kowalski make some outstanding saves and a one goal victory in a match up that was followed like no other in the Elite League era.
Whilst it may not be the most popular championship victory amongst the die hards of the game it is nonetheless a good victory for the sport. The 1994 Rangers sparked a boost in the popularity of the sport caused by winning a major championship in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world after failing to do so for so many years. The Nottingham Panthers victory will not quite be on that scale but the story and the history of the side has caught the attention of the national press and on the back of the increased publicity of the national team. This could be the start of a good era for the game in the UK.
No matter what happens from here on this moment and victory will become of those where were you moments and as one sign put in in 1994 â€˜Now I Can Die In Peaceâ€™ incidents for the Panthers faithful.