There seems no other way to open this article than offering huge congratulations to the players and staff of the Panthers for their achievement over the last weekend.
While unable to travel ourselves we followed with interest the radio coverage provided by radio Nottingham as the team went on to write the history books.
Being the first team from the UK to win a European Competition is something that the organisation should rightly be very proud of.
For me though the whole success seems very distant as we have achieved something that only a very small proportion of the fan base have witnessed.
Part of supporting a team is sharing in those successes and those failings and it is for that reason this season has a very mixed feel for me having missed all the highs and witnessed only the lows.
While I wasn’t fortunate enough to be in Belfast on that night back in 2013 I’d been there for that Jordan Fox goal against Sheffield and up in the Tin Shed for the Boxing Day mauling by Steelers. I’d shared in those highs and lows and as such eventually coming out on top meant something.
The Continental Cup however is something I just can’t get that excited about having not seen a second of the action. Had the arena been available and we had seen it here I might have felt a little differently having been able to engage but huddling round the iPad just does not seem the same. The only feeling I can liken this too is being a Forest supporter born in 1984. I’ve read and heard stories about those nights in Munich and Madrid but that is all they are stories and this to me and probably a lot of people is no different.
I appreciate for the few hundred people that managed to make it to Jaca, Odense and or Ritten this success will rank up there probably higher than winning the league as it would undoubtedly have been a great experience but these are the tales of the few told to the many.
It is this that in a roundabout way is what has frustrated me about this season. From before the first puck drop Neil Black expressed his desire to see European success even if it came at the detriment of league form and that is exactly what has happened. The hard earned money of the thousands of people that grace the NIC was being invested with the main goal being to see success in matches that maybe 5% of the fan base would witness.
Come April baring a minor miracle we are going to be seeing Cardiff, Sheffield or Belfast walking away with the most coveted prize in British Ice Hockey with us likely to be sitting 10 points or more off the pace having watched pretty much four months of matches that have no real meaning.
This is where everything comes together. The success of last weekend will undoubtedly have made recruiting and retaining players easier, finding bigger and more lucrative sponsors easier, selling tickets to games easier just like winning the league would have back in 2012/13. Winning the League proved to be a false dawn with nine points being the closest we have come to the summit since.
Winning the Continental Cup is an opportunity that has to be capitalised upon and that is something I can get excited about. There are bound to be many doors that have been opened this week and now is the chance for all involved at Nottingham Panthers to burst through them.
The work being done by everyone at the Supporters Trust is with a view to improving the relationship between fans and the club, aligning our goals and moving the club forward for everyone’s benefit so we can all share in nights like last Sunday.
Here is hoping that the players bring the confidence gained in Italy back to our domestic campaign and finish the season on a real charge. The key now is ensuring Ritten 2017 does not just become a date we write in our programmes but actually a time we can pinpoint as to when our club really found itself.