September 12, 2018 7:58 am

You hear his voice, but EXCLUSIVELY for the Elite League website, FreeSports presenter and commentator Aaron Murphy shares his thoughts from what’s going on around the Elite League.

This week, Murph looks at Cardiff in Europe, Panthers’ early season form, a young man with an ever growing puck collection and pays tribute to David Clarke.

You can follow him on Twitter @MurphOnIce and let him know what you think.

PHOTO: Tom Hiller –

The Panther Effect

When you look at what Nottingham did in the Champions Hockey League last year – you still have to smile at their campaign.

They did the EIHL, their fans and, of course, themselves proud. It was magical, but in saying that, they haven’t done any favours for other EIHL teams that contest the CHL.

Their success means no one in the group stages will take EIHL clubs lightly again. Gone are the days of Frölunda not dressing the likes of a Joel Lundqvist on the road for example.

When I spoke with Bern coach Kari Jalonen, he said he knew that there are ‘no easy games against EIHL teams after last year’. It reiterates how good the league is year-on-year, but also means top Euro clubs are up for the games.

Some will look at the Devils’ one point thus far and think it’s not been a successful run, but the reality is, as opposition with huge budgets give respect (because last year Nottingham made playoffs, and Cardiff home wins), then it will get even harder in future for EIHL teams to get out of the group.

Ultimate efforts and prep will be needed – and that’s what we’ve seen from Cardiff – especially in Bern – even then it’s not easy to get a ‘W’ when you’re on the radar in Europe.

The Devils have two games left against the SHL champions and we know (Andrew) Lord will have a game plan; the Devils will be up for it, but Växjö head coach Sam Hallam will not be looking past Cardiff, especially after a loss to the Devils last year.

These final two games in Group G will be fun to watch and EIHL teams having to get even better for CHL battle is a good thing for fans and the level of hockey in GB down the road.

(PHOTO: Panthers Images)

Domestic Bliss

Speaking of the Panthers – how good has the Rich Chernomaz era started?

The new boss means business. I interviewed him in 2013 when he was the Hungarian national team coach and I walked away from that thinking ‘what a fiery competitor’.

Fast forward to the present and it rings in my ears and holds true. The Panthers had a huge 5-2 win over their biggest rivals, Sheffield, on September 1st in the Challenge Cup.

That’s a statement for sure of how he wants to play against other top EIHL teams and Nottingham also outscored last year’s league runners up 6-2, over two wins this past weekend against Manchester.

It’s certainly a new regime in Nottingham and so far so good for the head coach. Teams won’t like playing against the big (6’2”, 200 lb average per player) and mobile Panthers squad.

Chernomaz looks like his recruiting is on point at this early season stage and I look forward to seeing them up close as our first FreeSports TV game in Nottingham is September 26th.

(PHOTO: Team McClean Facebook page)

Puck Perfection

What a warrior young Ethan McClean is!

He’s a huge Belfast Giants fan, with a big love of hockey and he’s been getting some pretty special mail recently.

The hockey world has been sending pucks to Northern Ireland to help spruce up Ethan’s room as he bravely battles Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

The NY Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche are just a few of the teams that have sent gifts and, of course, the UK Forum All-Stars have been incredible in their support.

Ethan, and some of the kids around the EIHL who face their own health battles are inspirational, and their love of the game is fantastic.

I hope to meet Ethan October 10th as the Giants host the Flames and I’ll have a few additions for his impressive puck collection.

(PHOTO: Panthers Images)

Number 5 on the roster, Number 1 to the Fans

What’s the old saying – numbers don’t lie? David Clarke has always been a class act on and off the ice and I can think of no more fitting a tribute than his number five being retired in Nottingham.

He played in 605 EIHL games, 295 goals, 572 points…not to mention cup games and the BNL era and of course always answering the bell for Team GB, Clarkey will be missed on EIHL and international ice. There’s no doubt about that.

He was always approachable when I came calling for interviews, always a smile, and his love of the game was contagious.

A great player, and in my experience an even better person, I think all hockey people wish him well now in his retirement from playing.


FreeSports’ next live game is the Elite League clash between Cardiff Devils and Milton Keynes Lightning, on Sunday 16th September, with coverage beginning at 5.30pm.


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