The Nottingham Lions beat Hull Jets 6-5 at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening, in a match which saw veteran netminder Alan Levers play on home ice for the final time, as he prepares to retire from the sport after a total of twenty-four years in the junior and senior game.
Alan recieves his number one jersey from Matt Bradbury (R) & Danny Harrison (L).
After the game, in a special presentation by Lions General Manager Danny Harrison and Head Coach Matt Bradbury, Alan was then bestowed with honour of having his number one jersey retired by the club, in recognition of his twelve outstanding seasons with the team.
A fine role-model and ambassador for the sport, the thirty year-old veteran has decided to hang-up his pads after a long and successful career in-between the pipes, both at the Lions, at international level and at other clubs throughout the Midlands.
Derby-born Alan, took his first steps into the sport as a six year-old, playing for the junior club at the old ice stadium and later at the shiny new NIC building, he also had the honour of being selected for England Under-20s and Great Britain's Under-18 and Under-20 teams in their respective World Junior Championship tournaments.
Alan's senior career began in 1999/2000, making fourteen appearances for the Lions in their inaugural season before backing up the team in the EPL during their following campaign, whilst still also icing for the Under-18 Leopards side.
Alan in action during his final home game at the NIC on Sunday.
His performances caught the eye of Coventry Blaze, who signed him as part of their 2002/03 BNL championship and play-off winning team. The following season, he then went on to make his Elite League debut, appearing on five occasions for the West Midlands giants.
Levers returned to the EPL for the next two seasons, icing with the Solihull Kings and Solihull Barons before retuning to the Lions midway through the 2005/06 campaign.
Alan then became a regular starter in the Nottingham team for the next six seasons, winning the English National League Northern and National championships in 2007/08, followed by the inaugural English National Ice Hockey League play offs in April 2009, whilst also dressing for the Panthers on numerous occasions between 2006 and 2011.
The stalwart netminder briefly left the club in the summer of 2012, to join local-rivals Sutton Sting but once again returned home midway through the 2012/13 season, to play an integral part in the Lions clinching the NIHL Division Two North league title, the following March.
Sunday saw Alan make his 206th and final regular season appearance for the club, in what has been an outstandingly consistent and successful career, which has seen him amass nearly 400 senior appearances and a huge 11,000 plus minutes on the ice.
Lions head coach Matt Bradbury is certainly one figure here at the NIC, who will miss Alan more than most, as he commented:
"I've worked with Alan both on and off the ice for many many years and have seen him grow from a young up and coming netminder learning his trade into a fine netminder, having played at the highest level of hockey professionally in this country, as well as internationally for Great Britain."
"He has been a joy to work with and I'm so sorry to see him go as I still believe he has a huge amount to offer - he genuinely loves his hockey and nothing more would please me than to see him working with young netminders of the future in Nottingham."
"If netminders could be Captains he would be my first choice!"
Alan makes a save during a game at the NIC earlier this season.
Recently, Alan has had something of a whirlwind few months, first of all having to carefully maneuver past a massively popular Twitter campaign, pleading for him to reconsider his retirement and play on for one more season, featuring the witty hashtag #LevesItOneMoreYear.
Secondly, he has also had the pleasure of preparing for his forthcoming marriage to the lovely Maria, which incidentally took place on Saturday. This involved a brief jaunt over to Poland for his stag weekend and not forgetting, the trials and tribulations that come with planning an impending wedding.
Thirdly, in another major life milestone, Alan also turned thirty on Sunday and certainly celebrated the occasion in the best way possible!
Indeed, it has been a testament to the character and commitment of Alan, who, whenever possible, has continued to make himself available for selection over the past few weeks, despite all of these distractions, not to mention playing his final home game, just twenty-four hours after his wedding!
Despite Alan's impending retirement, he will still be a visible presence at the National Ice Centre, in his current role as Rink Manager and will no doubt continue to be a treasured asset to the Nottingham hockey family.
Everyone at the Lions' pride and the Nottingham Ice Hockey Club, would like to thank Alan for his passion, commitment, reliability and all those outstanding saves over the years.
We would also like congratulate the newlyweds Alan and Maria and wish them continued happiness and success for the future.
Nottingham Lions #1 - Alan Levers.