Brad Moran is in his second season with the Nottingham Panthers and one point away from winning the Continental Cup with the British playoff champion. Photo: Max Pattis
Moran and Nottingham eye Continental Cup title
The Nottingham Panthers are in pole position to win the 2017 IIHF Continental Cup on the last day with the Odense Bulldogs and host Ritten Sport behind.
If they win the race for the winners’ trophy, they would be the first British team to win a European club competition.
Often in the shadow of the bigger European leagues, British ice hockey has a loyal fan base in many cities to run a professional league and lure players from abroad. Mostly it’s North American players who dominate the league. While in many leagues there are a few import players and players from the home country, it’s the other way around there with a few of the best British players on the team and reinforcement from abroad. The top-40 in league scoring include two British, a Russian, a Swede, a Dutch and 35 players born in North America.
Canadian forward Brad Moran is the most renowned player at the Nottingham Panthers. He leads his team in scoring both in the UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League and at the Continental Cup Final.
The 37-year-old has a history of playing in some of the best leagues in the world. The Abbotsford, British Columbia native once played eight NHL games for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Vancouver Canucks but was mostly stuck in the AHL on his home continent. He tried it in Europe where he played top-level hockey in Switzerland (Langnau), Sweden (Skelleftea, Vaxjo), Finland (Lappeenranta) and Austria (Linz) before his journey brought him to Nottingham in 2015.
“It was an opportunity for me. I’m able to do my schooling and finish off my career and to have something after my career,” said Moran, who joined an MBA program. “It’s a good place to play. The hockey is good and we’re having fun.
“It’s definitely more physical than some other European leagues, it’s more North American style but on a bigger ice.”
Already in his first season Moran won the playoffs with the Panthers. This season he captains the team that is currently fourth in the EIHL.
The Continental Cup is Moran’s first chance to play a European club competition. The Panthers won their tournaments in the second and third round to play in the final. The style of play at the final tournament is different to what he’s used to in the last two seasons.
“The hockey is also a bit different here with the team playing more cautious and structured,” he said.
“We’ve got a good group of guys and now we play in the Continental Cup tournaments. We don’t always have a full line-up but we’re sticking together and do what we have to do to win. When we do that, it’s fun.”
Whether his journey as a professional hockey player will end in his 17th season is not yet determined but Moran is taking the steps for a new career.
“I don’t think so,” he said about continuing as a player. “As of now this will be my last year. I think my body says it’s almost time and to look at some other things but you never know.”
Despite working on his education besides playing for the Panthers, he also doesn’t exclude options in hockey such as coaching. “I’m open to all options right now. We’ll see where the chips fall next year,” he added.
But first comes the last game at the Continental Cup on Sunday evening against tournament host and Italian champion Ritten Sport. After edging the Odense Bulldogs, 2-0, and Beibarys Atyrau, 3-2 in a penalty-shot shootout, the Panthers just need a win or at least a tie after regulation time to claim first place.
Moran and his teammates didn’t think too much about writing history as the first British Continental Cup winner but now they’re one point away from just that.
“We didn’t look at that because it’s a tough tournament. You got to get the things go your way. When you play one game against somebody, anything can happen. We saw that. We like our team. If we play our game we’re going to have a chance,” Moran said.