Mick Holland: A right 'Carry On' from the Panthers haters . . .
'INFAMY, infamy, they've all got it in for me!'
Thus went the funniest one-line gag in films, coming from Kenneth Williams as Julius Caesar in the 1964 romp 'Carry on Cleo'.
But it might well have come from Nottingham Panthers as some of the Elite League's comedians stare up at the pacesetters going into the new year, apparently desperate to knock them off their perch by whatever it takes.
To their credit, the club, as ever, have said nothing as Sheffield Steelers have been leading the way for the Panthers haters. And there are many.
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It is well recorded that if Sheffield can't win the league title, they are quite obsessive in doing everything they can to try to stop Panthers winning it.
And give them their due, since joining the big boys in 1993, Steelers have done a good job of that.
Panthers – who have not exactly been short of trophies after reforming in 1980 – have yet to win a senior league title, which brings much merriment from those of the orange and teal persuasion.
But the latest hysterical moaning from oop north is getting rather tiresome.
They tried to get the three-game suspension for Kelsey Wilson's reckless slashing offence against Steelers Simon Ferguson increased, by putting pressure on the league with a 'campaign' through the press, social media networks and elsewhere.
It doesn't help of course that Steelers' owner Tony Smith is also chairman of the league.
There was even an over-the-top blog under the Sky Sports banner by a Coventry Blaze fan likening Wilson to fictional 'Godfather' enforcer Luca Brazi (actually that should be spelt Brasi, unless he's talking about the rap artist? But accuracy is apparently not the writer's strong point).
The writer also tried to belittle the league's head of discipline Simon Kirkham, seemingly using a thesaurus to slip in as many potentially libelous words as he could find.
But if Kirkham – an unbiased former referee, an officials' assessor for the international governing body with no connection to any club – is removed from his position, what would be the alternative?
I heard a while back that former players could be drafted onto the disciplinary panel, which of course leaves it wide open to accusations of bias.
Imagine if ex-Sheffield favourite Ron Shudra, one of the players mooted for the role, was involved.
Whatever decisions he made, his past – and his previous allegiances – would be brought up.
However, looking at Wilson's offence in the cold light of day, it wasn't the wisest thing he could have done as he reacted angrily to Steelers' second goal and what allegedly went on before it during the first period of the game eventually won 9-4 by Sheffield.
He swung his stick wildly at Ferguson's padded midrift/ribs/solar plexus/chest (whichever story you happen to read) as the Sheffield players celebrated their second goal.
It wasn't as if he made contact with his opponent's head, in which case I'm sure Panthers would have had him on the next flight home, preempting any lengthy ban that would have come his way.
Was Ferguson hurt? Physically, no. He carried on and played the next game.
That's not the last of it, though. Steelers have also been attempting to get Panthers defenceman Jason Beckett banned for a 'spearing' offence during the same game -- an 'offence' which they failed to substantiate, despite sending in an edited tape in a bid to emphasise their point.
It makes you wonder what the Steelers will do in the future for a similar incident, as after these first free applications for supplementary discipline, the next ones will have to be paid for.
The problem is, there are a lot of supporters and people more closely connected with the game out there who wish Panthers were anywhere but at the top of the table.
And that's sad, and puzzling, especially for a team whose continued success off the ice has ensured the Elite League has survived since forming in 2003.
Let's not forget that leading clubs including Sheffield – who have had a string of owners – Cardiff, Coventry and even Belfast have all endured money problems in their race for success.
Ice hockey fans should really be grateful to Panthers and their management team for putting good business practice before trophies and doing more than any other side while helping to sustain a decent standard senior league.
It started near the turn of the last century when coach Mike Blaisdell quit the club because astute owner Neil Black, who had saved the club from extinction in 1997, refused to fork out any more cash for players in the SuperLeague.
The SuperLeague – and Sheffield – eventually went bust.
That's perhaps the problem. While most of the other sides in the Elite League have at times struggled to survive amid changes of ownership, Black, his right-hand man Gary Moran and latterly coach Corey Neilson have run a steady ship that has been steered to the top of the table – in good form on the ice and in good order off it. And clearly, that hurts for some.
And as they look down on the rest of the league, Panthers just Carry On Regardless . . .