1954: The very first time Fife Flyers met Nottingham Panthers

Fife Free Press archive - report of 1954 first ever meeting between Fife Flyers & Nottingham Panthers
Fife Free Press archive - report of 1954 first ever meeting between Fife Flyers & Nottingham Panthers

Fife Flyers and Nottingham Panthers is one of the oldest rivalries in the Elite League.

The teams first met in 1954 as the fledging Panthers made their first ever visit to Scotland.

And, ever since, there has been a mutual respect between the clubs and the fans - both well aware of their rich history, and the many great match-ups across the decades.

When Fife Flyers brought world class Czechs Vincent Lukac, Jindrich Kokrment and the late Milan Figala to the UK in 1988, it was Panthers, coached by Alex Dampier, who thrilled a capacity crowd at their old Lower Parliament Road rink by engaging in a tactical head to head. The match ended with a standing ovation.

Flyers fans will recall the great Panthers imports such as Doc Durdle as well as the legendary Chick Zamick and Les Strongman, to name but three.

So, as the teams prepare to meet in Saturday’s eagerly awaited play-off semi-final in front of a capacity crowd, we look back to that first encounter 62 years ago ...

The teams met at Kirkcaldy Ice Rink on Thursday, October 14 in an Autumn Cup tie - back then Flyers’ preferred hockey night was a Thursday rather than a weekend.

Seats costs 3/6, 3/ and 2/6 while you could stand at the back for the princely sum of 2/6 - juveniles got in for just 1/6.

Tickets for the games were sold via Mays Shopping & Travel Agents in the High Street, and the entry price included skating after the game - a tradition that ran for decades in Kirkcaldy.

And here’s how the Fife Free Press reported the action...

>> Flyers take it on the ‘Chin’

>> Flyers 2 Nottingham Panthers 8

A flashy and daring little centre ice with obvious Chinese ancestry and with the name of George Chin was the man who led this well balanced and skilful Nottingham team to a runaway win in this Autumn Cup game

With a personal tally of four goals this ‘Chinese cracker’ was in scintillating form and it was undoubtedly as a result of his opportunism that Panthers ended their first Scottish tour in a blaze of glory.

This was their first victory since crossing the border to participate in the five-game schedule.

While Chin was the mastermind up front, ex-Perth netminder Jack Siemon was equally brilliant in defence.

In a hectic opening in which Flyers were right on top it was he and he alone who stood between the Kirkcaldy line-up and possible victory.

What of Flyers? Well, this was their most disappointing home game of the season.

After a promising start they lost the place and although they continued to hold their own territorially, they lacked cohesion and punch.

Until reinforcements arrive, one can hardly visualise an improvement in form. We understand from coach Hayes that he hopes to have a full complement of players within a fortnight so we will reserve judgement until then.

Only four Kirkcaldy players, in our opinion, could claim any honours from this game.

In a shaky defence, Jimmy Mitchell was undoubtedly Flyers most reliable player. In attack, Walter Davidson gets our vote.

He was the only Kirkcaldy forward to back-check conscientiously and, with reasonable support, he might have emulated Chin’s personal triumph.

The only other players to come into the picture were wingers Wayne Sutherland and Johnny Andrews.

Newcomer George Bruce showed some clever touches but he will have to speed up considerably if he hopes to retain his position. Little would go right for the remainder of the players, and this is a game they will want to forget.

Flyers hemmed the visitors in their own end for the first ten minutes and the forwards threw everything but their sticks at cageminder Siemon.

Somehow he survived this hectic series of onslaughts and, in Nottingham’s first raid,. They went ahead when Strongman picked his spot after Westman had drawn the defence.

Both cages had escapes but once again it was Malahoff who had to admit defeat, Chin beating him with a grand shot from a Cooney assist.

Before the interval, Chin added number two when the Kirkcaldy defence was caught out of position to allow him a clear run at the net.

Although Flyers once again had the better of the exchanges in the second period, Zamick, who had been fairly subdued during the first period, suddenly came to life to score a spectacular solo goal.

When Davidson, from a Sutherland assist, made it 4-1 in the opening minutes of the final period, it looked as if Flyers were going to start a revival.

However, although they monopolised play for a spell, they lacked the ability to finish and, as so often happens, in a breakaway Ringer put Panthers further ahead, and a matter of 30 seconds later Chin added a sixth.

Although they had no chance of saving the game, Flyers kept plodding on and three minutes from time they added a second. Sutherland was the marksman, and Mitchell and Davidson shared the assists.

Before the end Nottingham brought their total to eight with two well taken goals by Chin and Westland.