Panthers Legend

Jono Bullard pays tribute to a netminding legend as his Panthers career appears to be over.

Photo (c) Andy Burnham

Craig Kowalski’s Panthers Career Stats (Regular Season Only)

Games: 234

GAA: 2.24

Save%: 91.8%

Honours: Challenge Cup 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014; Play-Offs 2011, 2012, 2013; Elite League 2012/13

Legend is an often overused word, especially when it comes to looking back on the career of sports stars. However when it comes to Craig Kowalski it is absolutely appropriate.
With Nottingham Panthers announcing the signing of Finnish netminder Miika Wiikman today it appears that Kowalski’s golden era at the club is now over. Wikman is left with some big skates to fill, but he looks to have the pedigree to become a very good net minder in the Elite League.

Kowalski has been nothing short of outstanding in his five seasons in Nottingham and is a big reason as to why the club has been so successful in recently. Not only incredibly consistent but had the ability to win games on his own, especially big games. I may be accused of bias but for me he has been the best net minder in the Elite League during his time here. In fact I would go as far to say if I had to choose an EIHL net minder to play for my life he is the one I would select without question.

Of course the platitudes from the Panthers fans have been many and heartfelt throughout the day, however it’s the Tweets of fans and officials from clubs around the league that say a lot and show how much he was feared and respected. A selection below:

@Simmsey David Simms
So officially no more @craigkowalski33 in @PanthersIHC what a player & what a job he did for them. We are glad to see the back of him
@SullyDevil Paul Sullivan
If he’s gone, then the hockey fan in me is very sorry to see @craigkowalski33 leave. As a Devil? Good riddance, you eternal pain #topgoalie
@block15blaze Craig Summerton
Panthers goalie put up solid numbers in good leagues. I think he’ll do well. Kowalski leaves with all due respect from me. One of the best.
@StuColes Stuart Coles
Kowalski when on his game was that good. I’m sad for the league that a NM of his quality has gone, but bloody pleased from the Blaze POV.

For me that is one of the biggest tributes that anyone can pay when opposition fans are pleased to see you gone because you’re that good, but as we all know Craig Kowalski was that good.

Regretfully Kowalski didn’t go out as he deserved having suffered an injury in Belfast in March. It’s sad to think that will be his last appearance in a Panthers shirt. I hope the club can bring him over next season so that he can get the send off he so richly deserves and so that we as fans can show our appreciation for everything he has done for this club as one of the best net minders we’ve ever had in Nottingham.

Thank you Craig Kowalski, genuine Panthers legend.

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