Nottingham Panthers appoint Gary Graham as head coach

Gary Graham left East Coast Hockey League side the Fort Wayne Komets in 2019

The Nottingham Panthers have appointed American Gary Graham as head coach.

The 43-year-old, who recently worked with the Omaha Lancers in the USA, moves to the Elite Ice Hockey League side as replacement for Tim Wallace.

Graham previously spent six years in charge of the Fort Wayne Komets.

“I wanted to go to place where I knew I had a chance to be successful, and Nottingham will give me all the tools to give the fans something to be proud of,” Graham told BBC Radio Nottingham.

Wallace, who guided the Panthers to a second-place finish in the Continental Cup in 2020 and the Elite Series title in 2021, was sacked by the East Midlands club in January.

Mark Matheson took the job on an interim basis as player-coach and guided Nottingham to fourth in the league, with their season ending in the play-off quarter-finals.

Graham, who took the Komets to the play-offs in each of his six seasons in charge before leaving in 2019, moves to the British game for the first time. He has previously worked outside the United States during a stint in China.

It is the second major rebuilding appointment made by the Panthers in recent weeks, with Omar Pacha named as chief executive last month.

Despite being new to the league, Graham said he is familiar with many players and coaches.

“The league is very similar the ECHL [East Coast Hockey League] where I’ve spent a lot of my career coaching,” he said.

“I feel like there is a good correlation between the leagues.

“I have a lot of respect for the league and I’m look forward to Pacha coming in – he brings a lot of excitement and enthusiasm to the organisation.”

Graham said he intends to deliver “fast, aggressive, in-your-face and entertaining” hockey to Nottingham’s National Ice Centre.

“As a coach you always have to remember that you want to give your fans something that’s exciting, something they look forward to when they see a home game on the schedule,” he said.

“You have to really build your team almost like a cast of characters, you have to have some skill, some razzle dazzle and some physical mean guys.”

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