Introducing The Claw

Words: Natalie Owen
Photos: Sharon Logan, Nottingham Panthers
Tuesday 06 February 2024
reading time: min, words

Introducing The Claw...

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Dearest Readers, 

Here at LeftLion we have been big supporters of the Nottingham Panthers for a very long time, and a few of us have reviewed games over the years kindly gifted to our team by the lovely Chris at Panthers media. After having a conversation about the sport columns that we currently have such as Left Brian and Left Stag in our monthly catch up meetings we have decided it is time that the Nottingham Panthers get a column in LeftLion - The Claw! I have taken on this great opportunity, as after being a fan since the Barry Nieckar years and the old ice stadium days, this is something I've always wanted to do while working at LeftLion.

I have a lot of passion for this team, throughout every decade. When I was younger my dad would take me to every match in the nineties and noughties; the Sheffield Steeler games were my favourite! The rivalry between the teams and the atmosphere in the arena, both arenas in fact, old and new are always electric. I was even a cheerleader back in the day for the Panthers on stage during my late teens and I have entered competitions with the Panthers over the years; I had my Valentine’s Day design printed onto jerseys and my tribute illustration for Adam Johnson was printed for the fans, raising profits from the sales to the Love For Hibbing and Hockey Memorial Fund. Not only that, but part of the illustration was even painted onto the ice! So now writing a column for LeftLion about the Panthers is truly an honour.



As a reader, perhaps for the first time hearing of the Panthers at all, you must be wondering why I have decided to do the column half way through the season and not just wait until next year. Well, let me explain… 

October 2023 was the month that shook the ice hockey community; the world was speaking about Nottingham. The Nottingham Panthers hashtag blew up over night along with the shocking news of Adam Johnson who passed away after being injured on the ice while playing against the Sheffield Steelers in Sheffield. My heart still goes out to Adam's Johnson's family especially as the investigation is still ongoing. 


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It affected both fans and players who were at that game to witness it but it also saddened the whole ice hockey community. The awful situation united all fans; even the rivalry between Panthers and Steelers brought both sets of fans together. At Adam Johnson's memorial game it wasn't just Nottingham fans there; fans from Belfast, Cardiff, Sheffield… literally all over the UK came to be there to support the game against Manchester Storm. 

It was the Panthers’ first game back on the ice since the incident. Storm’s team management, fans and players have shown a lot of support to our fans and players throughout the current season, also raising funds for the Love For Hibbing and Hockey Memorial Fund. Panthers drew 4 - 4 against Storm at the memorial game, it was a beautiful game all round and the fans went home feeling happy to see Panthers back on the ice and also grateful to everyone involved for arranging the game. I don’t think there was a dry eye in sight that evening.


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Jordan Willis, Mark Cadotte, Marc Levers, Calle Carlson have all been big favourites of mine through the years and I was always proud to see them on the ice giving it their all, but I don't think I have ever been prouder than watching this current team on the ice. The grief each player has felt and is still going through, especially those who were on the ice at the time as Adam Johnson is truly unthinkable. Panthers might have lost a lot of the games over this season currently but can you really blame them. It's not something anyone can forget so easily, it's something that will always play on their minds during every game this season. 

The fact that they even came back onto the ice for the rest of the season, I for one was shocked by. I didn't expect them to come back to the ice at all after witnessing what they saw, which makes me personally feel so proud of them, and I know I'm not the only fan who thinks this! Even if we lose and place last in the league this year, I don't think it matters; just going to a game to support them during this time is enough to help this incredible team get through what has been such a tough and traumatic season for them. 

The Panthers played the Steelers on Saturday 27 January. To say they have gone through such traumatic events it has not stopped their drive to try and win. The team gave it their absolute all to try and beat the Steelers but unfortunately lost 3-2. Steeler fans waited until the end of the game to applaud Panthers leaving the ice, something that the fans wouldn’t normally do over the years, I for one appreciate the respect the fans have shown to us. 

The post match review from Steelers Aaron Fox also showed our fans how he is also still feeling the mental pressure of everything that has happened this season, but he also showed his support he has for Panthers, too. Of course, he wants his team who are already top of the league to win it completely, but in his interview he mentioned how part of him was also routing for Panthers too, as he knows the struggle they are going through. He doesn’t pity the Panthers, he seems to genuinely care about our team this season. 

4 February 2024 saw Panthers play Coventry Blaze in Coventry. After beginning to lose 2-0 inside the first 59 seconds of the game, Panthers clawed it back by winning the overall game 6-2! I was unfortunately not at the game but I have heard from fans on the road how amazing they played. It sounds like that game has given the boost that the players needed!


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I want to give a quick shout out to Otto Nieminen for making a special trip to the LeftLion office to sign my jersey - I can’t believe how kind he was to go out of his way to sign it. Thank you very much!

So to end my column I hope you can see why I wanted to start the column half way through the season. It is important to show my support and also mention the Panther community fanbase support for this extraordinary team of 2023/24. Especially as most of us didn't expect to see any of them back on the ice for Nottingham this season, at all. It shows the level of respect they have for the club and most importantly going back on the ice for Adam, playing for Adam and his memory that will forever live on at the Motorpoint arena as his number has been retired. There have been rumours that Adam’s shirt will be retired at the Playoff finals, I’m not sure how true that is, let's wait and see. 

In the meantime, let's keep roaring.

Thank you for reading,

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