Paul Adey was the highest scoring player in Nottingham Panthers’ history, leading the team to the Heineken British Championships crown at Wembley Arena and four Autumn Cups, and later won Superleague’s Grand Slam with their great rivals Sheffield Steelers. The British-Canadian was also a key contributor to the Great Britain team in World Championships and Olympic Qualifying competitions.
Paul arrived in Nottingham after four years in the North American International Hockey League (IHL) and a spell in France with top club Briançon. After attending an NHL training camp, he was selected to play for the Canadian Olympic team only to be forced to withdraw with an injury.
He made an impressive debut for the Panthers in 1988-89 at a time when each team was restricted to three imports, and he was the only overseas forward. Defence-minded coach Alex Dampier insisted on using the rest of his quota on the blueline and brought in Darren (Doc) Durdle and Terry Kurtenbach. Adey edged out Durdle as the club’s top Premier Division pointsman and scored a goal and an assist when they beat Ayr Bruins 6-2 in front of 8,996 fans in the Wembley final. An opponent described him admiringly as “a non-stop battler whose work rate is quite superb.”
With the 5ft 10ins, 190lbs attacker in their line-up, the Panthers appeared in four more Championship finals but were always the bridesmaids. He enjoyed better luck when he turned out for the Steelers in 2000-01. In the free-spending Superleague days, Mike Blaisdell’s side swept the board, with Paul declaring: “The great thing about Sheffield was I got to win the league title which was something I’d never done.”
The Panthers’ leading points scorer four times – he missed the top two only once in eleven seasons – in 1998-99 he headed the overall scoring in the Sekonda Superleague. Between 1988-89 and 1998-99 he scored 1,533 points (787 goals) in 626 official games for the Panthers, out-pointing the club’s legendary Chick Zamick.
As soon as he received his citizenship papers he became a valued member of Britain’s national team and went on to play in six World Championships and two Olympic Qualifying competitions. He was their top scorer three times during the squad’s busy international spell between 1995 and 2001, and when he stepped down he was ranked fifth all-time in points with 50 (27 goals) in 48 games.
When he turned 36 in the summer of 1999, Panthers’ owner Neil Black felt unable to give him the two-year contract he wanted and he returned to the continent to play in the Italian league for Milan-Cortina. There were no hard feelings, however, and after his fling with Sheffield he was back as coach Dampier’s assistant.
The next year, 2002-03, in the dying days of Superleague, he took over as head coach and led the men in gold and black to the Challenge Cup final in Manchester, only to lose to the hated Steelers. The heated rivalry continued the next season with Adey’s Panthers finishing second to Blaisdell’s Steelers in the new Elite League and the first Play-off Finals at the National Ice Centre, before finally toppling Sheffield in overtime in the home-and-away Challenge Cup final. In his third and final season,
The Panthers again won through to the final of the Elite League Play-offs, only to be beaten this time by Paul Thompson’s surprising Coventry Blaze.
The Nottingham club honoured his achievements and loyalty in 2003 by raising his #22 shirt to the rafters of the NIC. The tribute to him on their website reads: ‘He is and will always be one of the all-time great Nottingham Panthers.’
Keen to stay involved with the sport, he became an erudite colour commentator for Premier Sports and FreeSports’ television coverage of the game, alongside play-by-play man Aaron Murphy.
Paul Adey was born in Montreal, Canada on 28 August 1963. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.