‘Chick’ Zamick was the highest scorer and one of the most famous ice hockey players in Britain during the years after World War Two, which he spent almost exclusively with Nottingham Panthers. During his eleven seasons on Lower Parliament Street (1947-48 to 1957-58), the Panthers won two league titles and Zamick topped the league’s points scorers on six occasions.
Born in Canada, one of 12 children of parents originally from the Ukraine, he was given the first name of Victor. His nickname came from Chicklets, the popular Canadian chewing gum, which he was particularly fond of.
Unusually, he didn’t start organised hockey until he was 12-years-old but he progressed swiftly through the ranks and gained a trial with the professional Cleveland Barons in the American Hockey League. However, he did not have the confidence to sign for them and instead chose to continue sharpening his skills with St Catherine’s (Ontario) Teepees under former Richmond (England) Hawks’ coach Rudy Pilous, who later mentored the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks.
When his war-time service in the Canadian Army was cut short by injury he took various jobs, including a brief and precarious living as a flyweight boxer (he stood 5ft, 7in and weighed 140lbs), before joining the Alouettes and helping them to win the Winnipeg Intermediate Hockey League.
Learning that Nottingham’s coach, Sandy Archer, was in Winnipeg and looking for recruits, Chick badgered him for a chance to earn £15 a week (about £600 today) playing in England. Archer told the 21-year-old that due to a late withdrawal he was in luck. With scarcely time to pack he arrived in Britain with £30 in the pocket of a suit he had borrowed from his brother.
He became an instant success, taking the scoring title in his first season, courtesy of his deceptive body swerve, muscular frame and accurate left-hand shot. He even won praise from a rival, Wembley’s Sonny Rost, who exclaimed: “His greatest asset was his marvellous shot, which was always very low. The goalies had little chance as he could shoot on the move at high speed and with a lightning quick release while stickhandling.” He endured the inevitable rough treatment stoically, seldom retaliating.
With Chick onboard the Panthers won the English National League in 1951 and 1954 and he was voted onto ten All-Star teams. His career season was 1954-55 when, aged 28, he set five scoring records – the first player to exceed 1,000 points all-time in National League competitions, with most goals (594) and most assists (473); in that year alone he set league marks of most points (112) and most goals (65).
He was voted Nottingham’s Sportsman of the Year in 1949 and 1951, beating off stiff competition from national sporting figures, including the legendary England and Notts County centre-forward Tommy Lawton. He was so revered and respected by the Panthers’ fans that when he broke his arm in a 1952 fall in the Ice Stadium, some of those present wept openly.
Appointed player-coach in 1955-56, he led the team to a league and Autumn Cup double, continuing in the role for two more campaigns before accepting a three-year contract to do the same job with Geneva-Servette in Switzerland. His career record with the Panthers is 778 goals and 1,423 points from 624 games, with a sportsmanlike 192 penalty minutes. He scored fewer than 100 points a season only once – in 1951-52 when his tally stopped at 98.
In 1960 Chick was tempted away from Switzerland by Ken Bailey, the ambitious owner of the new Altrincham Aces, but he made only four appearances. When ice hockey returned to the Empire Pool in 1963 after a short hiatus, he readily joined Rost and his old Panthers’ linemate Les Strongman to form a potent, if aging attacking trio and scored 31 points in just 11 outings for the famous club.
Victor (Chick) Zamick was born on 16 August 1926 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After giving up playing he remained in Nottingham where he ran several thriving small businesses. After moving to live with his daughter in north London, he died on 9 October 2007. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1951.