Omar Pacha Appointed Nottingham Panthers CEO: Quotes, Analysis

Omar Pacha's Dundee Stars missed out on a place in the Elite League Playoff Final (Image: Dean Woolley)
Omar Pacha's Dundee Stars missed out on a place in the Elite League Playoff Final (Image: Dean Woolley)

It’s official: Omar Pacha is in as Nottingham Panthers CEO, marking a significant change in the club’s organisational structure and philosophy.

He arrives at the Motorpoint Arena in the aftermath of a difficult season for the franchise, which fell short in the Elite League, Challenge Cup, and Playoffs in 2021-22.

Of the Canadian’s appointment, chairman Neil Black said: “His drive, passion and enthusiasm will really kick start our desire to climb back to the top of the Elite League summit after a number of years in the wilderness.

“I’m sure that all of our fans and sponsors will back Pach as he makes Nottingham his new home & the Panthers his new family. It’s going to be exciting times for the Black & Gold and the work begins today, right now.”

In a recent interview with BBC Radio Nottingham, Pacha lifted the lid on his exit from the Dundee Stars and switch to the Panthers.

“My time in Dundee was sensational: I had the best five years of my life,” Pacha explained. “But I was ready for a new challenge when this opportunity came up and I felt it was the right move for my career.

“There’s a lot that attracted me to [the Panthers]: getting into a new role, working in a big arena with one of the most prestigious clubs in the UK that has great potential in Europe.”

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In his exit interview with the Stars, the 35-year-old spoke of his desire to step away from the bench. Coaches, he argued persuasively, have shelf lives and he wanted to move into a managerial position before his teaching turned stale.

“There were so many positives with the opportunity and it came down to being able to [re]-build a whole club: that was the main attraction,” he explained.

“The role is more focussed off the ice than on the ice. I’d like to build and create our own identity: to make sure we have hard-working, passionate people at the club.

“I’ll be responsible for the hockey in some ways: in hiring the coach, who will recruit [players] with me. He’ll be the driver of that in some ways, I guess that I’ll be challenging him to see if that’s the right guy for our club, but the 24/7 recruitment is going to be on the head coach.”

Pacha, who made 245 appearances in the Elite League as a defenceman, didn’t shy away from the idea that he could reunite with former players in Nottingham.

Related: Cardiff Devils Complete Playoff Threepeat: Elite League Takeaways

“There are players I’m interested in bringing into Nottingham from past experience, and I’ll pass that information around, but recruitment has to be driven by the coach and it’s on me to bring the right guy in to lead us forward,” added the Boucherville, Quebec native.

By his own admission, appointing the right person to lead Nottingham from behind the bench is Pacha’s first major test as Panthers CEO. While he didn’t rule out the prospect of hiring a rookie, finding someone with coaching and recruiting experience is at the top of his wish list.

Elite League Playoff Final, Panthers CEO
Omar Pacha spent five years in Dundee, before switching to Nottingham (Image: Scott Wiggins)

“I don’t think it’s a sprint [to appoint a new coach] but there’s a bit of urgency,” he clarified. “That doesn’t mean I’ll be pressed to take the first person I see: it has to be the right guy, somebody who is willing to put in the effort. It’s a job that people should feel privileged to have, I feel to be the CEO of the Panthers.”

When asked if one of his tasks as Panthers CEO was to bring apathetic fans back into the fold, Pacha commented: “On the ice, a club like the Panthers should be able to compete right from the start. I’m not guaranteeing championships from day one, but I’d like to see our team compete in all competitions. I don’t think that’s too much to ask and it’s what our fans expect.

“My role is to bring our fanbase and sponsors on a journey and it’s important that we communicate that journey. That’s one of the biggest things I want to bring into Nottingham. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been extremely passionate about what I do.”

Analysis: Omar Pacha Unveiled as Nottingham Panthers CEO

Pacha is effectively proposing a total reset in Nottingham, which is certain to go down well with supporters of the club.

It’s been a frustrating couple of years for the Panthers, who showed early promise under Doucet before falling away since the start of the pandemic. Despite having all the conditions required to be a powerhouse in the Elite League, the organisation has fallen behind the Belfast Giants, Cardiff Devils, and Sheffield Steelers.

Although it’s easier said than done to run a successful hockey club, Pacha finds himself in a nice spot with the Panthers. He’s the CEO of an arena club in a city attractive to imports and homegrown players alike. His team also has a significant fanbase and storied history to draw upon.

In other words, it’s on him to close the gap and eventually overtake the Elite League’s top clubs.

Pacha’s first – and most important – task is to recruit well. In his interview with BBC Radio Nottingham, he spoke of his desire to see the Panthers play with more physicality in 2022-23. Considering the team’s struggles this term, that’s a wise starting point.

But player recruitment won’t matter if Pacha doesn’t find the right coach. If his switch to Nottingham is to be a success, he must surround himself with smart hires.

Rebuilding Nottingham is a big challenge, which will require him to stamp his vision across the organisation, but it’s a job Pacha is relishing as Panthers CEO. He’s the right person for the job, undoubtedly.

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