So Rich Chernomaz begins his tenure as Nottingham Panthers coach, but what do we what do we know about him?
Born in Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada on 1st September 1963, Chernomaz moved to Vancouver Island at the age of 6 and began playing Ice Hockey. A right winger by trade, the majority of his game was played in the minor leagues, he believes that he wasn’t tall enough to play at a higher level despite game time in the NHL.
How did the Hockey career begin?
He started his Hockey education with the Saskatoon Juniors of the Western Hockey League (WHL) at the age of 16, he also played for their senior side, The Saskatoon Blades, that same season. In this period he scored 42 goals and 47 assists in 76 games scoring 89 points, a decent haul that got him recognised.
He was snapped up by the Victoria Cougars also of the WHL for the 1980-81 season where he scored 49 goals in 72 games including 64 assists, a grand total of an impressive 113 points. This helped them to win the Presidents Cup that year with a victory over the Calgary Wranglers.
This productive season propelled him to the big show, the league where all Ice Hockey players aspire to be, the NHL.
The Colorado Rockies gave Chernomaz this chance. He played 2 games during the 1981-82 season, his first game against the Montreal Canadians, before being recalled back to the WHL with Victoria Cougars. His stint back with them productive and within two seasons he earned his place back in the NHL when the Rockies became the New Jersey Devils
Chernomaz then spent a further 4 seasons with the Devils including stints at their affiliates The Maine Mariners. In his time with the Mariners he won the Calder Cup. The next three seasons he spent the majority of his time in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Mariners however did appear in 25 games for the Devils.
Free agency allowed him to move to the Calgary Flames in 1987. He was to stay with the Canadian side for 7 seasons but was to only make sporadic appearances, limited to 11 games. He spent the majority of the 7 seasons with their affiliates, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, where he won another trophy in the form of The Turner Cup.
In 1992 he joined the St John’s Maple Leafs back in the AHL and in his first of two seasons there he was the teams top points scorer with 110 in is first season and named in the leagues first All-Star Team. He also won the Les Cunningham award for the most valuable player.
In 1995, at the age of 30, he played for Canada in World Championship in Austria and earned a bronze medal. After the championships Chernomaz was asked by the owner of St John’s Cliff Fletcher, if he wished to retire to become a bench coach as he had been a player coach with them since 1993. He had a desire to keep on playing so rejected this opportunity. He Moved to Europe where he signed for German side SERC Wildthings of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). He then spent 3 seasons associated with the German side before retiring in 1999.
So what did he did once he hung up the skates?
Once his playing career ended he decided to remain with the Wildthings as Head Coach. He would then spend the next 18 seasons in Germany coaching various other teams; Kolner Hale, Augsburger Panther, Frankfurt Lions, Lowen Frankfurt and ERC Ingolstadt. He also took the role of Sports Manager with Lowen Frankfurt alongside his coaching role.
During this time he coached the Hungarian National Team at senior level and the Under 20’s.
During his time coaching in Germany he won two trophies, the DEL title with Kolner Haie in 2001-02 and the DEL2 title with Frankfurt Lions in 2003-2004.
So what can we expect?
Chernomaz clearly has a wealth of experience, playing and coaching at both league and national level, he has played with some of the best hockey players in the world and can be classed as an astute addition to the EIHL. He has big shoes to fill as Corey Neilson is seen as a legenday figure in Nottingham, hence his retired shirt number being high in the rafters.
Optimism is high amongst the fans who would love to see success knocking again on the Motorpoint Arena door but time will be needed for Chernomaz to find his feet and for the new signings to gel alongside those returning.
Chernomaz is passionate that his team plays with heart, that they play for the jersey that they’re are proud to represent Nottingham and this will be welcomed by fans as, at times, last seasons they felt that the roster wasn’t playing to the best of their ability and their commitment doubted. He wants his side to play hard and be competitive which is key to the EIHL as it becomes stronger and stronger as times goes on, this evident from the recent signings of Dwyer and Linglet by The Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils respectively, both who have played in the higher echelons of the Hockey world as well as our new addition of Dlyan Olsen. It’s safe to say its going to be a long season but hopefully a fun and rewarding one under the vastly experienced and charesmatic Canadian.
“Lets go Panthers”