When Panthers finished fourth in the Autumn Cup competition, the signs were that this would be yet another season in which the team would achieve little of note. Stinchcombe’s claims that “this is the best team I ever had” were looking somewhat silly, but from there on in the Panthers never looked back, becoming embroiled in a championship race with the Brighton Tigers. Strongman and Zamick were joined by Pat Casey, previously of the Ayr Raiders, and together the trio proved a devastating forward line. The three scored 86 of Nottingham’s 156 league goals as the Panthers secured a first ever league title by one point. Great Britain’s gold medal winning captain Carl Erhardt presented the winning medals to the team after a 9–4 victory at Earls Court Rangers.

Although arguably the Panthers’ greatest ever forward line had helped to make the team the highest scoring in the league, the defensive line up also played a crucial part. The Panthers’ allowed 105 goals in 30 games, significantly less than any of their rivals. A season of success also brought accolades to Zamick. With Notts County’s Tommy Lawton, Nottingham Forest’s Wally Ardon and Nottinghamshire’s Reg Simpson for competition, Zamick was awarded the prize of Nottingham Sportsmen of the Year for the first time. The Nottingham Panthers were champions and surely on the brink of something special.

As if to give their supporters a taste of the roll coaster of inconsistency the club is now infamous for, the following season could not be more different. A second place Autumn Cup finish suggested that a successful defence of the league title was a possibility, but the Panthers instead achieved the dubious distinction of going from first to worst. Much of this shocking collapse could be attributed to the injury sustained by Chick Zamick, who broke his arm in February 1952. Having won eighteen games during their championship season, the Panthers managed only half that number and would finish with the wooden spoon by eight points.

The 1952–53 season proved only marginally better. Mid table finishes in both the Autumn Cup and league led the writers of the Ice Hockey World Annual to observe that “the fight was missing” and that “If you do not play as a club and have that fighting spirit, you don’t win.” Finishing bottom of the Autumn Cup table at the beginning of the 1953–54 season suggested that the Panthers weren’t going to be much of threat when the league began. Instead the club would pull off one of their most outstanding successes.

Undeterred by the setback of the Autumn Cup wooden spoon, Stinchcombe was able to strengthen his side. Bill Maslanko, a highly rated forward from Winnipeg, was brought into the side, while former Panthers defenseman Bill Allen was tempted back to Nottingham to shore up the back line. The result was that the Panthers became title contenders, soon involved in a two-horse race with Streatham for the championship. By the end of the season they had completed a miraculous turn around and travelled to Brighton needing only a point to seal the league championship for a second time. At the end of the second period the Panthers were 4–3 down and the title seemed destined for Streatham, but the club fought back to secure the 5–5 tie they needed. Nottingham had successfully managed to haul themselves from bottom to top in the space of only a few months.

This triumph proved to be Archie Stinchcombe’s last action as the club’s coach. He resigned to be replaced by Zamick. However, organisational changes at a national level would overshadow the change at Nottingham.


1 Response to “1950-1954: Success & Failure”

  1. 1 Bill Ferguson November 18, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Pat Casey NEVER played for Ayr Raiders, he played two seasons with Falkirk Lions. 1948/49, 1949/50

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