Interview with Gary Moran

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Being Frank with GM the GM

We recently grabbed a few moments with Gary Moran, General Manager of the Nottingham Panthers Ice Hockey organisation to put some fan's questions to him.  He was quite open and honest about alot of the subject areas that have been dividing opinion amongst the supporters such as the music, atmosphere and players.

Freeq:  What do you think of the negativity from some fans when it occurs and what impact does it have on the organisation?

GM:   Some of the harshest critics of the club never give you the benefit of the doubt that you might’ve already had those thoughts and you might be trying to do something.  No-one cares about the club any more than the people within the organisation and no-one in the organisation ever tries to do anything that’s designed to cause a problem for the fans or the club or the arena. 

It’s understandable what they’re saying because we’re often thinking the same things.  It’s easy to sit over a pint in a pub or behind a keyboard and say ‘sack so and so because he’s had a crap game’ but we might know that he’s been up for three nights with a kid suffering from croup or something.  You know, we might know a player’s carrying an injury that we don’t want Brad Voth to know about or something.

When we lose a game, the players are as miserable as sin, I’m mad, Corey’s mad, Bruce’s mad, Goody’s mad, Neil Black’s mad and we care passionately about the club.  But the vast majority of our fans are fantastic passionate people, that’s why they were queuing at three in the morning to get play-off tickets on the off chance that we’re going to be there – of course we’re going to be there and of course we’ll give our all.  The ticket says ‘versus’ not ‘beating’ but that doesn’t mean we never step on the ice hoping to win.

Freeq:  Can you clarify the situation with Nick Toneys – is he available to play and are we likely to see him play again this season?

GM:  Nick Toneys at this moment in time is one of 12 foreign players and one of 17 registered full time with the club.  The coach has the opportunity to pick from the 12 import players because of the restrictions about how many can ice at any one time and he’s very much a part of our organisation. He’s studying at Derby University and we thank them for their continued support. 

Corey has to put the best team on the ice he sees fit for each given situation, whether that continues through to the end of the season that remains to be seen, but Nick Toneys is very much one of our players, as are the other 11 imports at this moment in time.  That can change, someone might ask to leave, someone might get an offer from somewhere else.  If you listen to someone who claims to know what he’s talking about, half of our players are leaving all the time you know,  there’s a guy who’s just walked past [Galbraith] as I’m talking to you who’s apparently signed in Austria and left us three weeks ago.

Freeq:  Is there anything that can be done to improve the atmosphere in the Arena?

GM:  I would say we have games as good as any team, when you bear in mind we have a large arena.  We’ve done the most difficult thing any club in the history of ice hockey has done, in this country certainly, we’ve moved from a small old barn with a hardcore of supporters, into a big barn, more than double the crowd, more than treble the crowd on occasion and it’s very difficult to please everyone all the time. 

I have a standard answer when somebody asks me why we don’t allow drums, it’s not me that doesn’t allow it, it’s the former rink manager didn’t want drums because of the grief it creates for the people around them.  They’re wrong in accusing me, it’s not a club decision but I understand why the decision has been made, when they ask me why we don’t allow drums, I always ask where they sit, and when they say ‘why’, I say I’ve got 17 drums at home, I’m not averse to drums, I own a drum kit, congas, bongos, African drums, I’m quite happy to bring one of those down to have an experiment, but we’ll have the experiment in the seat directly behind where you sit.  Without fail, everyone has said to me ‘I don’t want it behind me’, so where do you put it?

We play music that others copy and follow. There’s a club that has been cited as having a better atmosphere than us, well, they’re in a much smaller building so that obviously helps the atmosphere, but if you listen to the music and the look at the crowd reaction to the music – their music is spot on, the words of some of the heavy metal they’re playing really applies to the situations on the ice – but no-ones heard of the music so in a 1,500 crowd 1,495 people are chatting or reading their programmes. 

It’s a very difficult thing to do, you know Darren came in for a game, who does the announcing for the masters football, our sister company and he said afterwards ‘boy that’s tough’. We are successful on the commercial front, which is why we’re so successful on the ice because that all plays a part, the size of the audience plays a part in our income, the amount of sponsorship plays a part and that leads to the quality of ice hockey we can put on.  Because of the sponsorship there are an awful lot of sponsorship announcements to get out there, people don’t come and give you x-thousand pounds to not hear their product be mentioned during the game so there’s so many different aspects to be borne in mind. 

I don’t pick the music, people suggest music, players suggest music.  It’s like one person used to write to me saying ‘why on earth are you facing off at 4pm on a Sunday’ well the players like it, the coach likes it, away teams like it, the arena love it and the crowd went up by several hundred by bringing it forward because kids can now come on a Sunday and the parents can get them home and they’re not buzzing on Coca Cola when they should be sleeping ready for school the next day. 

We’re always open to suggestions, sensible suggestions and everyone’s working hard.  In the last few matches I think the DJs are buying into things.   Like I say, we’ve done the difficult thing of moving from a old barn into a new barn and you can get caught up with the fact that when we first started doing things in the old barn like ‘let’s make some noise’ half the audience were shouting ‘don’t tell me when to shout’ so I radioed and said ‘play Rocking All Over The World’ and the same person who was saying ‘don’t tell me when to shout’ would start clapping along.  So we’re trying to get the balance right and I think we’ve moved on a little bit, we’ve realised now we’ve got a lot of new fans, it’s not a sudden revelation but the size of the new fan base has been increasing and increasing and we’re at the stage now where the announcers can call for more noise and change the approach. 

I had a complaint last year that we should be playing Black & Gold – we played it for six games running at the end of last year and no-one noticed.  Everyone’s trying to do the best for the majority but we know we’re never going to please everybody and there’ll always be people that when we win 5-0 moan we didn’t win 10-0 and when we win 10-0 start moaning about the music or the fact we haven’t got drums or the hotdogs aren’t hot enough or the queue at the bar’s too big.  All we can do is our best and if you compare us to other teams, I’m very proud of our record – we’ve never gone bust winning the league.