The popularity of ice hockey in the United Kingdom started to sky rocket in the years leading up to World War II. All of the teams that the original Panthers would come to call rivals sprang up in the late 30s. The arenas of London; Empire Pool (known today as Wembley Arena), Harringay and Earls Court, and the rinks of Streatham and Brighton all hosted professional sides. Many of these had members of Great Britain’s Olympic gold medallists playing for them. It was in this environment that work began on a new ice arena: the Nottingham Ice Stadium.

The Ice Stadium opened its doors for the first time with much fanfare on 10 April 1939. The Nottingham Panthers, to begin play in September, were one of the new attractions planned for the building. Two days after its opening the Ice Stadium played host to its first game of ice hockey, with Harringay Greyhounds defeating Harringay Racers 10–6 in a challenge game. The Nottingham Evening Post reported that 5,000 spectators attended, a mind-boggling number to any of us who set foot in the building during its later years.

As was customary, the Panthers shipped in their first ever team from Canada by boat. A few reportedly were able to catch a of glimpse of the new building. Unfortunately, circumstances in Europe were soon to overshadow the preparations for the new team. War broke out on 3 September 1939 and, with wartime restrictions introduced by the Government, Nottingham’s ice hockey team were left with little option but to fold before they’d even began.

The Panthers were not immediately forgotten though. In the early months of the conflict the Ice Stadium remained open and became a centre for locally based Canadians keen to continue playing hockey. Three games were played during this period, with the ‘home’ team adopting the moniker that should have been taken by Nottingham’s hockey club. The first of these took place on 15 November, resulting in a 7–4 defeat to a team of players based at RAF Grantham. The second was played against ‘RAF Canadians’ while the third was a ‘combined’ team of Panthers and RAF Canadians against a University of Cambridge Canadians side. In spite of the war these games still attracted a decent amount of interest, with local media reporting large crowds at each game.

Soon, however, the war took a turn for the worse. The invasion of France and the Low Countries brought an abrupt halt to the so called ‘Phoney War’ and, soon facing regular bombings from the air and needing to prepare for a possible invasion, the Government seized the Ice Stadium for other uses. Reputedly the building saw out the war as a store for munitions, and as a morgue.

With the war won, the Ice Stadium was reopened for its original use in August 1946. The idea of a professional ice hockey team from the city was quickly revived and the Nottingham Panthers made their first comeback. A coach was found in Olympic gold medallist Alex Archer and he assembled the first Panthers team in his home city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.


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