The Nottingham Lions have enjoyed many highs and lows since their foundation in 2000, they’ve played hundreds of games, tallied over a thousand goals and given blood, sweat and tears in the pursuit of victory.
For the Lions though, success isn’t only measured by trophies and end of season tables. As a development team, it is as much about the players they bring through the juniors, into the NIHL and progress onwards to the next level. Ex-Lions can be found all over the EIHL, EPL and abroad, these are the fruits of a long, gruelling but ultimately rewarding development process, proof that the Nottingham Lions are a successful club, generating the British stars of the future.
Over the coming months, we will be talking to former Lions and showcasing what they have been up to since leaving the National Ice Centre.
33 year-old utility player, Marc Levers iced for the Lions during the 2000/01 season and has had a glittering career in UK hockey, winning two Elite League titles, six Challenge Cups and three Elite League Play Off championships, during his time with the Panthers and the Belfast Giants.
What are you up to this season?
Currently I'm Playing For the Peterborough Phantoms in the EPL.
You've had a rich career since playing with the Lions, what season stands out as the best?
Yes, I've been very fortunate career wise, I've played on some great teams with some great players. I couldn't say that one season was the best but there are a couple that will always stand out a little more. Winning my first Elite League championship in Belfast was incredible, not only the winning but also getting to play alongside one of my childhood heroes (Theo Fluery) and learning so much from him! Then I'd have to say the Triple winning year with the Panthers, we'd won a lot of trophies prior to that year but to be part of the team to finally lift the league trophy after so many years without it, was very special to me.
To expand on that, Is there a single moment that stands out as your favourite?
I'd have to go with winning in Nottingham, I've been a Panthers fan from the age of 3, so getting to be part of the massive success we had would have to go down as my favourite.
Guest Lions Against GB U20s - Marc (Left) with Perry Doyle (Middle) & Tom Norton (Right).
What is your best memory from your year with the Lions?
Lots of good memories back at the beginning, too many to mention really, I just remember it being a whirlwind and a massive learning curve. The step up was a great challenge but one that I thought the whole team handled brilliantly.
You were a Lion at the very beginning, how did it feel being involved in a brand new team?
It was very exciting being involved at the start, not really knowing what to expect but at the same time eager to succeed, obviously there were teething problems at first but the team beat all the odds and surprised a lot of people.
From what you remember and have seen now, has the organisation changed a lot?
The team and organisation has continued to improve year after year, putting together a really professional outfit, which I'm proud to say I was part of and I was honoured to be asked back to represent them against GB Under-20s, back in November.
How important do you feel having the NIHL level teams is to the development of British players?
The development of British players is an ever on-going conversation and there are many opinions but I see teams like the Lions and other NIHL organisations as great stepping stones for young players. It gives them a first taster to the senior hockey world and offers them the chance to really get noticed for higher levels.
How much did the Nottingham organisations, from junior to the EIHL, help you become the player you are today?
I can safely say I wouldn't of had a career if I hadn't been part of the Nottingham organisation, the junior system was great all the way up and then the Lions really gave me the opportunity to take the next step.
Having a full career is no small feat for a British player, what has been the biggest challenge you faced over the years?
I think my biggest challenge was moving away from the comfort of Nottingham twice, first from the Lions to take that next step in my career. Secondly from the Panthers, after I worked so hard to get back here, a shoulder injury early in my first year back meant I had to leave again in order to gain ice time, as it turned out, the move to Belfast was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Was there a point when you realised that you'd made it in the sometimes chaotic world of British ice hockey?
Looking back, there a few moments when you could say I realised I was making a career for myself but I think playing for your country at the World Championships has be the time it really hit home. Playing hockey for a living is a privilege but playing for your country will stick with you forever.
If you could give the young Lions players one piece of advice for their careers, what would it be?
My only advice is to never stop working, only ever give it your all and don't be afraid to make that big decision!