Paul Balm is rather upbeat about Panthers pre-season & CHL performances.
There are a lot of different ways that you could describe the last four (and I suppose for the sake of accuracy) and a bit weeks, particularly if you are a Nottingham Panthers fan. There’s been a lot going on and the pre-season period, which is usually little more than a starter for the main course that is the actual season (the play offs are the pudding if we must continue the meal analogy), has thrown up plenty to talk about.
To start we must, like any good story, go back to the beginning and for this story that beginning is Monday, the 7th of August. The start of training camp, the day that Neil Black said all this season’s team would be in Nottingham for. Were they? Were they heck. Did anyone actually believe they would be? I know I certainly didn’t. I thought we might have a fully signed team at that point but I didn’t expect them to all be in Nottingham. Opinion was divided, it didn’t matter or it was the worst thing in the world depending on who you spoke to. Personally, I wasn’t that bothered, I was on the Norfolk coast perfecting my Alan Partridge impression and the most irritating thing for me was how quickly all the What’sApp messages I was getting about it were draining my phone battery.
This was a situation we’d been in before. Panthers have started too many league campaigns without a full roster and that’s why the question was asked of Neil Black in the first place. I think that’s where the real source of the upset lies and with the fact that Panthers are in the CHL. If Neil Black hadn’t answered that question the way he did and if there wasn’t the additional time pressure of having to have a team signed earlier than normal, then I don’t think there would have been the outcry that there was.
You can also argue that Neil Black was never going to just shrug his shoulders and say “they’ll be here when they get here, who cares? It’ll be fine”. That was never going to happen, even if that was how he felt about it. He was giving the fans the answer that they wanted and that directed the pressure on to Corey Neilson. Neil Black had told everyone very publicly what was going to happen, all Corey had to do now was do it.
I wonder how those people who sat and bemoaned the fact that the whole team weren’t there on the first day feel about the team now? It’s very early days but they don’t seem to be suffering many ill effects from not all being there on the 7th. In fact on the evidence of the last few games they’re positively thriving.
If you’re a fan of another team (with the possible exception of Cardiff) you might want to look away now.
There are times in your life that you have to state the obvious and this is one of them. It isn’t because you’re gloating or anything unpleasant like that it’s more to remind yourself of what has happened.
The Nottingham Panthers have beaten Krefeld, Bern & Mountfield (twice) already this season.
Beating Krefeld felt great. OK, it was only pre-season but it wasn’t played like a game where the performance was more important than the result, it was played with an intensity that was rarely seen last season and almost never has been sighted in August.
If only we’d known after that Krefeld game what we know now. I thought playing Krefeld could very possibly end up being the highlight of the season but to then go on and beat Bern and Mountfield (twice) in the space of 10 days is nothing short of incredible. You can throw all the excuses at the Panthers that you like (and let’s face it the Mountfield coach did) but the fact remains that Mountfield might not have played their best players, there might have been a problem with their ice, Diana Ross might have been playing there the night before, whatever, the fact remains that Panthers won those games against those teams.
To describe the past few weeks as a successful pre-season is probably a bit of an understatement but that’s exactly what it has been – pre-season. We might have been playing against teams like Bern or Mountfield instead of home and away games with teams we’ll see dozens of times this season anyway, and there might have been points on offer and we might just be on top of the group table but it, for me at least, is still just pre-season. Famous victories they might have been but they won’t count for anything if we can’t win games in the domestic competitions week in and week out. Make no mistake I think there is the potential in this group of players for this season to be a very exciting one. We’ve had the exciting and memorable nights, now the time has arrived to knuckle down and grind out those wins. Does this team have the ability to go to Edinburgh on a cold Tuesday night as the saying goes? It’s the one thing we don’t know yet, let’s see.
Finally, there’s one thing I really don’t understand at the moment.
As I write this there’s still over 50 hours of pre-season left, or is there? At the moment I’m not sure whether we’re still in pre-season or not. Obviously Panthers and the Devils have been in CHL action over the last couple of weeks but the rest of the EIHL teams were either playing exhibition (no ice hockey match should ever be called a friendly) or Challenge Cup games. This week we’re told that the league starts in earnest and yet the whole of one conference are playing in what amounts to a pre-season tournament. At the end of the day none of this really matters and yet in a way it does. You don’t get the Premier League moving fixtures so teams can extend their pre-season a bit do you? To an outsider it must all look extremely amateurish. Everyone’s domestic season should start at the same time or is that just too much to ask?