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.
Tom Norton in action for the Peterborough Phantoms. Photographer - Tom Scott ©.
Over the next few weeks we will be talking to former Lions and showcasing what they have been up to since leaving the National Ice Centre. Today we had the chance to speak to Peterborough Phantoms defenceman Tom Norton. Norton, who made his first senior appearance in 2006 and played for the pride until 2010, spoke to Nottinghamlions.co.uk about his time at the Lions and his career beyond. The 24 year-old had this to say:
Since leaving the Lions, where has your career taken you?
‘It's not taken my career too far away, I have stayed in Nottingham wherever I have played as I have a job at Blue Bell Hill Primary School in St Ann's as a learning mentor. After playing my last game for the Lions in the 09-10 season, I spent one more season with the Panthers followed by two seasons in the EPL with MK Lightning and the Peterborough Phantoms. I then came back to the Panthers last season and now signing a 2 year deal with the Peterborough Phantoms back in the EPL.’
Coming back to your time with the Lions, what did you enjoy the most?
‘How close the guys were on the team, a lot of them had been together a long time and you could really tell they just enjoyed playing together.’
You played 57 games for the Lions, what were your most special moments wearing the Lions jersey?
‘For me it was quite a big moment playing my first game for the Lions, I remember being very nervous as I was only a small 16 year old playing against grown men.’
What was your greatest accomplishment?
‘It was pretty special winning the league and playoffs in 2007/08 and following up the next year by heading to Coventry and retaining the play-off trophy in a shoot-out after just missing out on the league title. I will always have great memories of that.’
How well did the Lions and Nottingham development system prepare you for the EPL and EIHL?
‘Really well, they have such a strong junior system and it's always fed really well to the Lions by providing younger players the chance to play and train with the senior team. For young players to develop, they have got to be on the ice and as we all know ice time in the UK is hard to get hold of. I have always found that Nottingham has been keen for players to train and play up an age group.’
What is your greatest moment of your hockey career to date?
‘Playing for Great Britain Under-20s was a great moment for myself personally. I was never the one of the players picked to play for the conference or England and I kind of went under the radar. It was a very proud moment pulling on that shirt as it would have been my last opportunity.’
What is the next step in your hockey career?
‘At the moment I'm playing in Peterborough and I have another year left on my deal after this season, I’m going to keep enjoying myself and improving my game, hopefully I’ll help win a championship whilst I am there.’
Tom Norton now of the Peterborough Phantoms. Photographer - Tom Scott ©.
Norton returns to the NIC on Tuesday to face the GB Under-20’s in the fundraising match up. He is a guest star alongside Marc Levers and Perry Doyle, speaking of the clash he said:
‘It will be a great experience!! It has been over four years since I put on a Lions shirt so it will be fun, It’s going to be a different experience for me this time as when I was playing for Lions I was the youngster on the team.’
What do you expect on game night?
‘It's going to be a great game and for a good cause, for me it will be great to see how our young Nottingham talent does against the best under-20 players in the UK at this present moment. It is also a great opportunity for them to get themselves noticed and make a claim for a spot in the coming years.’
You can catch Norton, Levers and Doyle as they join the Pride’s ranks this Tuesday at 7:30pm at the NIC. Tickets priced at just £3 with all proceeds going to Special Olympics Nottinghamshire. Ticket and venue details available here.