Born in Winnipeg in 1924, left-winger Les played his junior hockey in Saskatoon and had trials with the Detroit Red Wings. After serving in the Canadian Air Force and working as a policeman, he decided to give European hockey a try. He arrived from Canada to join the inaugural Nottingham Panthers line up in the 1946-47 season and quickly made an impact, averaging a point a game. His points output increased from the following season alongside prolific new line mate Chick Zamick. In total, Les played eleven seasons for the Panthers, five of them as Captain, and also had spells with rivals Wembley Lions and in Switzerland and Sweden, where he had his first taste of coaching. In 1950-51, Strongman was voted onto the all-star team and captained the Panthers to their first ever trophy, the English National League title, a feat the team repeated under his captaincy in 1953-54.
After broadening his experiences in Wembley and Europe in the mid-1950s, Les returned to the Panthers towards the end of the decade, and was still an important member of the team when the club folded in 1960.
After a gap of twenty years, the Panthers were re-formed by Gary Keward in 1980. Looking around for a coach, Keward found Les Strongman, who had settled in Nottingham after his playing days were over, running a newsagent’s shop almost opposite the ice stadium. The former hero agreed to coach the reformed team in its early days, even making one appearance on the ice in an end of season challenge game that first year (at least I got to see him play once!). Even when his tenure as Panthers coach ended, Les continued his association with Nottingham hockey, serving on the club’s committee for a number of years and coaching the second team Trojans and later the junior Cougars, who benefited from his vast experience until he returned to Canada just a few years ago.
In total, Les made 508 appearances for the Panthers and recorded 733 points (402+331) with 330 PIMs.
Profile written by Ian Braisby