Adam Reddish’s second article of the current season focuses on the shift in attitude from the Nottingham Panthers organisation, primarily from the man currently spearheading the new era of the organisation.
Former Prime Minister Harold Wilson was once quoted as saying that a week was a long time in politics. Although after the week that the Nottingham Panthers have just experienced, fluctuating between the highs of an exciting 4-3 OT victory over Guildford before crashing to a dreadful 1-6 defeat at home to Coventry just a mere seven days later, the saying could just as easily apply to the sport of ice hockey too.
The Coventry defeat, the third straight loss after reverses on the road to the same opponents in the League (1-2) and to Manchester in the Challenge Cup (1-5) was the catalyst for notable action being taken by the club. This involved CEO Omar Pacha taking the rather unprecedented and unexpected step of issuing a statement last Sunday in the aftermath of the heavy home Blaze defeat which apologised to Panthers for the sub-standard performance. As a long-term Panthers fan who has been vocal in my criticism for the way the club have historically buried its head in the sand when strong action was needed, then such a statement to address several poor performances could not have been more welcome from my point of view.
One of the most pleasing elements is the willingness of the organisation to not settle for second best, this mindset has been a major failing of the Nottingham Panthers for some time now with a dreaded slow creeping losing culture taking hold at the club – something finally addressed by owner Neil Black after a dreadful 2021-22 season.
The perception amongst fans upon reading the CEO’s statement that standards right across the board must remain high should surely transmit a strong message to those both inside and outside the club that mediocrity is now firmly off the menu, certainly, the feedback from Panthers fans on social media suggested a strong level of appreciation for the brutally honest tone adopted by the apology. This is all a far cry from recent seasons where a variety of diversionary tactics had been used to cleverly (or not so cleverly!) deflect focus away some of the most listless performances fans had suffered for years.
Unsurprisingly, Omar Pacha’s actions have been seized upon by fans of other Elite League sides with some mocking the Panthers management for a perceived over-dramatic manner in how they’ve communicated their displeasure in response to a run of three successive defeats.
But to be honest, whilst fans of other clubs have every right to make their views known, the feedback shouldn’t trouble anyone connected to the Nottingham Panthers one little bit. If outsiders want to mock, let them mock and we’ll see who was right and who was wrong at the season’s end when the trophies are handed out. The club has a duty to its own fans, and I’m convinced that the majority of Panthers supporters will be thankful to now have people at the club who care passionately about the on-ice product and striving to deliver the much overdue success craved by everyone.
However, our CEO must be acutely aware that for all the progress made off-ice in reunifying fans with the various things happening at the club, this all risks being undermined if what people make great efforts to come and watch week in, week out is consistently substandard. You only need to look at last season’s catalogue of anaemic displays to know that fans can quickly turn their back on the Panthers in pursuit of something more enjoyable, so for all the welcome advances made by the media team, what happens on the ice simply cannot be overlooked – making Omar Pacha’s intervention highly relevant.
Taking a look at on-ice matters, on paper it appears we have some good forwards. Most other Elite teams would love to call on the services of Mike Hammond, Adam Brady and Luke Ferrara but a lean return of three goals across the last three games suggests that Head Coach Gary Graham has got plenty of work to do. Not only does he need to get his forward lines to gel, but also has to get his defence to tighten up as a matter of urgency.
The CEO’s statement certainly throws down the gauntlet to guys at both ends of the ice to produce more. Another key factor will be to see how the Head Coach reacts to the public criticism of his team, particularly as his own post-match interviews after recent games have seen him openly critical of the desire and quality his roster has displayed.
Given what has gone before, it’s unlikely any Panthers fan would have envisaged such draconian action occurring so soon into the Elite League season – or even happening at all but it’s certainly a step in the right direction in establishing a culture where the aim has to be competing and challenging for titles every season. It’s a breath of fresh air to see how high our CEO’s standards are and this should be reassuring to fans knowing that the club’s management are united in not settling for sub-standard performances without their being consequences. Happily, the comfort zone appears to have gone.
For the players and coaching staff, the ball is now firmly in their court to arrest the worrying recent form and if the run of defeats and poor performances continue – something all fans hope doesn’t happen, then the club will be forced to take some sort of action, or else the highly publicised and much commented upon statement will lose all its credibility and questions will rightly be asked about the commitment to challenge for trophies.
So, wouldn’t it be nice if the backlash from a hard week of practice and the words of a disappointed CEO resonating in the players’ heads began this Saturday against our friends from up the road?