The History of the Nottingham Panthers - Part 2
|No-one can honestly remember why the team was ever called the Panthers in the first place. One story links the name with the nickname of an "imported" squadron based near Nottingham for the war, this was thought to be the most likely explanation though, a team was assembled and then sent home to Canada without playing a match when the war broke out. It was thought the name probably stuck and eventually the team involving Les Strongman came into the building for the first ever game on Friday, November 22nd, 1946, and they stuck with the name tag of "Panthers".
However, after last year's Yearbook came out, hockey historian Martin C. Harris added more fuel to the mystery when he pointed out that there is a reference to a proposed team called the Panthers in Nottingham in the annals of the British hockey authorities long before the aforementioned story could have taken place. The thinking behind the naming of the Panthers continues to remain one of the city's biggest puzzles.
Back in 1946, the Wembley Monarchs provided the opposition on the opening night and they and the other sides proved too strong for the fledgling Panthers who finished bottom of the National League. They battled hard though and the fans rewarded them with rapturous support and the team in turn rewarded the fans by never giving up. Even in that first season there was a hint of great things, Panthers finished above Wembley and Streatham in the National Tournament where they were runners-up to Brighton Tigers. Five years after that first game and the Panthers were National League champions and they repeated their success in 1953-54 when they pipped Streatham by a single point and captain Les Strongman was on hand to receive the trophy.
Legendary sharpshooter Chick Zamick had joined the team in 1947 as a last minute call-up. He arrived in Nottingham in a borrowed suit and with borrowed money in his pocket. The five feet seven inch tall centre was soon setting records. He scored his 100th goal inside a season and a half and had the crowd on its feet for his 200th goal in January 1950. By January 1954 he was up to 500 goals and the following year as player-coach led the Panthers to the British National League title and the Autumn Cup.
With Zamick taking over the role of player-coach after Olympic gold medallist Archie Stinchcombe was asked to resign to cut running costs, Les Strongman left Nottingham to take up a player-coach's role himself, in Switzerland. He then returned to win the British National League title himself, but not with the Panthers, he'd returned to Britain to play for the Wembley Lions. Like Strongman, Zamick took a coaching role in Switzerland on a three-year deal, after which he too joined the Wembley Lions. Big Lorne Smith took the coaching reins in Nottingham and Strongman was back in the city in 1958 but he left for Malmo in Sweden where he stayed for five seasons before returning to start a business in the city where his name and that of Zamick is synonymous with ice hockey. Zamick too, returned to Nottingham to start up various businesses.
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