Everybody has their favourite player at their club, there’s no denying that statement.
More often than not, it’s either the captain, the forward, the playmaker, or the hometown favourite come good; one of those, the latter, is also a forward for that of the Nottingham Panthers, 23-year-old Nottingham-born centre, Jordan Kelsall.
Having been born into the game, his parents are season ticket holders at the Nottingham Arena, home of the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) stalwarts, the Panthers star Kelsall began skating near-enough around the time he could walk and never really looked back.
Spells at that of the Swindon Wildcats, where he lifted the Autumn Cup and briefly the Dundee Stars, only strengthened his love and resolve for home, and under the erstwhile guidance of mentor and Panthers Head Coach Corey Neilson, continues to go from-strength-to-strength.
“I’ve been on the ice, skating, since I was what, four years old,” Kelsall said in a recent interview with the Nottingham Sport.
“My parents were Panthers season ticket holders and I guess I started skating because of that.
“I went to juniors here and I really loved it, so, when I was growing up, to be able to play professionally, here, it was the dream – that and I’ve been a fan of the club for as long as I can remember (alongside the Panthers, Kelsall is also a Notts County fan).”
For a period though, Kelsall spent time in Wiltshire, at the Okangan Academy and the Swindon Wildcats, in the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL), whilst also staking his claim on international jerseys as well.
Successful though he was in his ‘youth,’ a hard term to use when he’s still in his early twenties, winning the Spring Cup at the Wildcats, only spurred Kelsall on to wanting more, and with his hometown club at that.
“I played in Nottingham until I was thirteen before moving to Swindon, where I lived for a time with a host family, and played for the Okangan Academy,” continued Kelsall.
“Then, after my own family ended up moving to Wiltshire, I ended up coming back home, to Nottingham (gone full circle).
“I played for a while at the Swindon Wildcats, before coming back here.
“It’s tough, competitive, and high level of ice hockey (NIHL), and it was a great experience for me to have – winning the Spring Cup there, that was a great accomplishment and it really made me hungry for more.”
Home though, it’s always been where the heart is for young Kelsall, and, with the mentorship of former, star player, and current HC Corey Neilson, who’d blame him – after all, Neilson is the reason behind Kelsall’s return home, for starters.
“Corey (Neilson) though, he was a coach at the Panthers before I moved to Swindon,” explained Kelsall.
“Then, when my time was up (in Swindon), he contacted me, and we spoke about my coming home, offering me the professional experience with the Panthers, whilst allowing me to gain some game-time with the Wildcats.
“To watch someone like Corey (who had seven seasons playing/coaching with the Panthers between 2006 and 2013, seeing them to League, Play-Off, and Challenge Cup successes in his final season) both play, and coach, shows as to why he’s been a huge influence on my career.
“He is one of the reasons as to why I am where I am now, and there’s a reason his teams are successful, and that’s respect, and hard-work.
“To be able to play here though, in Nottingham, it’s a privilege, as it’s the club which I love; there’s something really special about this place, something which is unparalleled.”
This season though, it’s been a mixed one for Neilson, Kelsall, on the Panthers.
Back-to-back defeats against the Belfast Giants (2-0 at home on Valentines, 6-1 away the following weekend), was quickly followed up, this past weekend, with huge victories for the Panthers, they collecting maximum points from home clashes with the Cardiff Devils (3-1, Kelsall netted the opener) and one of Kelsall’s former clubs, Dundee Stars (4-2), on 25 & 26 February, respectively.
“This season though, as a team, we’ve not been able to deliver much,” added Kelsall.
“That’s something which is not just down to ourselves though.
“There’s a lot of teams bunched together (top four, bottom five, Coventry Blaze in the middle) in what is a close, competitive league, and there’s always a lot in which to play for.
“The recent game with the (Belfast) Giants (2-0 defeat on Valentines), it was the story of our whole season really, and was a good game to be involved in (despite the result).
“We’ve worked on things since then though (as shown this past weekend) and we, now, really have to progress the rest of the season, push for a play-off spot, and give ourselves the best, possible chance.
“If we do that, and we know that every game is important, then we do see that there’s a trophy in which to play for. If we can focus over the remaining games, then we can put the underachieving behind us.”
With all that he has done thus far, in what is still a fledgling career, what does stand out as career highlights for hometown favourite, Jordan Kelsall?
“Playing for Great Britain (in five tournaments) was something I’d dreamed of as a child, and something which I’d love to do again,” Kelsall admitted, smiling away.
“But, to play in the Continental Cup, with the Panthers (runners-up to Danish side, SønderjyskE Ishockey, in 2020), now that was a rather cool experience, and it means, for me, that I really want to start lifting trophies with the Panthers.
“To be able to do something like that, would be awesome, especially having watched them win when I was a child.”
Jordan Kelsall’s sponsors for the 2022-23 season are Intermotor (Platinum), Hannah & Barry Jarvis and Michaela & Gareth Child (Gold), and the Read family, and Karen & Andy (Silver); keep up-to-date with all things Nottingham Panthers via their Facebook, Twitter and website here.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @PanthersImages Jordan Kelsall in action for Nottingham Panthers.