A Whole Lot of History

This week Paul Balm looks at Panthers history and wonders why the club don’t make far more of it.

I was looking through a pile of old programmes yesterday that my Dad gave me a few weeks ago and it got me thinking about the history of the Panthers and how poorly the club represent it. I might be the only one but I often get the feeling that, unless, like last season, there’s something to commemorate (more on that later) huge swathes of the Panthers history are ignored. You may not remember the first era of the Panthers, you may not remember when they reformed but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happened and, I feel, the club should be doing something to tell the story of those times. We have a history, there may be a huge hole in the middle of it and it may not have been all that illustrious in places, but it exists in a way that only Fife in our league can match for longevity. It should be, if not necessarily celebrated (some bits can’t really be celebrated) then documented.

I’d love to see the club create some kind of online resource. Apart from a Wikipedia page and Pete Walch’s excellent site all we’ve got on the official Panthers website at the moment is a brief history of the Nottingham Panthers summing up the last 70 (almost) years in under 3,000 words. It gets lost in all the other information that the website contains. I know the website has to be about selling the club, providing the latest news etc but there’s room for so much more. Another alternative would be to set up another website purely for the history. The club must have huge amounts of photos and other resources they could share with the fans. And if they don’t I’m sure the fans do. The opportunity to create some sort of resource/database is there, it’s just not being fulfilled. All it needs is a database that could handle media of all kinds. It doesn’t have to be complicated and in there are resources like YouTube that could be used to hold old footage so all that would be needed is a link. There has to be so much out there. You only have to look at that stack of programmes I was talking about earlier. There were all sorts in there, from run of the mill league games through to challenge games against Tesla Pardubice when a certain Dominik Hasek almost played in Nottingham. We have such a rich and colourful history that we should be shouting it from the rooftops.The club shouldn’t be relying on fans to do these things for them they should be grasping the nettle and doing it themselves. You can say “why? No one else is doing it” and you’d be right but so what? Someone has to be the first.

An online resource would be great, people like me could spend hours in it, but what about game night? It may be the National Ice Centre, it may be the Motorpoint Arena, it may be a multi-purpose arena but it’s also the Panthers’ home. How many games have YOU been to at the arena. Chances are it’ll number in the hundreds. Compare that to the people who come for the concerts – how many have they been to? I wager it’ll be nowhere near the same number. Nowhere near. Think about that for a moment and then think about the arena. You wouldn’t know it was the home of the Panthers would you? Apart from David Beauregard’s shirt hung up in the corner of the foyer and a blurred abstract photo of Casson Masters on one of the walls there’s nothing that has any kind of identity. The Panthers are anonymous in their own arena.

Where are the banners? When the club have been asked in the past why there are no banners commemorating our trophy wins we, as fans, have been told that it was because the Motorpoint Arena is a multi-purpose arena. If I’m honest I just don’t buy it. I’m at a loss as to why that matters. If you’ve ever been to a concert you’ll know that the scoreboard is lifted up into the rafters so it doesn’t obscure anyone’s view. Surely the same could be done for banners. The hardware to hang them is already there. Next time you’re in the arena look up to the opposite end to the stage. There’s a bar/gantry thing (I don’t know the correct term sorry) to hang lights on and I’m guessing there’s one at the other end as well. Surely banners could be hung from those. They might need to be removed/moved for each game and it is that, again I’m guessing, which causes the sticking point. Panthers pay to hire the arena and that costs will be based on what needs to be done to the arena to prepare it for a game. Someone needs to hoist the nets into place for each game, the boards have to be put back if they’ve been removed and all these things cost money and there, for me is the issue. We could have banners that could be raised for each game but it’s going to cost money and the club don’t want to pay that. I know this is going to sound petty but Sheffield is a multi-purpose arena and they have banners. So does Belfast and I’ve heard they’ve had the occasional One Direction concert and they have banners.

In a way though I’m sort of glad we don’t have banners. If it costs money the club would want them to be sponsored and there are some things that shouldn’t have someone’s name plastered all over and those banners are one of them.

We’re never going to have a museum like Fife has got more’s the pity, but there’s plenty of wall space at the NIC that could be used. Again, would there being a plethora of Panthers pictures on the walls upset the concert-goers that much? Oh what I would have given for something interesting to look at when I was trying to get out the arena on play-off Saturday after our game, surrounded by Braehead fans singing about Brendan Brooks.

In a way it seems strange talking about the importance of history within sport because if there was ever a field where history doesn’t matter it’s sport. How many times have you heard a manager or player in any sport when asked about the relevance of previous encounters with the next opponents state that the past doesn’t matter, it’s all about what happens the next time around. They’re right, what has gone before doesn’t matter in that context because it can’t be changed which means they have to put it out of their minds because, to them, it’s irrelevant.

It isn’t irrelevant to us, or it shouldn’t be. Those highs and lows, the good times and the bad times are what make our times as ice hockey fans so special. The club has to keep moving forward but they shouldn’t leave the past behind as the fans will always have links to it. The stories of our life are interwoven with that history. Selmar Odelein flooring Mike Rowe with a single punch won’t win us a game next season, neither will wining the Challenge Cup or the Playoffs. The past is the past, it won’t affect anything but if nothing else it gives you something to look back on when it’s all going horribly wrong and it will always give us something to talk about.

You can follow Paul on Twitter @MrBalm

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