Corey Neilson is used to winning awards in more than a decade with Nottingham Panthers.
However, Neilson was not only shocked to win the Brian Clough OBE Manager/Coach of the Year award, sponsored by Mazars, at the Nottingham Post Sport Awards 2017 – he did not believe he deserved the accolade.
Neilson was recognised once again for guiding Panthers to last season’s historic Continental Cup win, as well their stunning success in the Champions Hockey League this term.
He edged out severe competition from Kevin Nolan and Peter Moores, despite Nolan transforming Notts County’s fortunes in the last 10 months, while Moores guided Nottinghamshire CCC to two trophies and promotion in 2017.
“I was surprised. Those guys should have won,” he said.
“Even I know what they’ve achieved. It’s good company to be in, so to be selected for the award is great.
“I’ve got a good team of coaches around at a great organisation.”
Panthers became the first British ice hockey team to win a European trophy when they triumphed in the Continental Cup.
That secured qualification to the Champions Hockey League and since then Panthers shocked some of the continent’s elite clubs by making it through to the last 16.
Neilson is hopeful Panthers can achieve further success this season after assembling a new look team.
“Last year we were a team that achieved early. It started strong and then fizzled away,” he said.
“I was proud of them for what they did in the Continental Cup. It was a special achievement.
“Hopes this year are very high. The ownership, the management, the fanbase, the players and myself all seem to be extremely positive about what we’ve done so far and now it’s a question of keeping things going.
“We’ve got to keep finding new and exciting ways to keep them improving. It’s a young team that needs a lot of work all the time.
“They need focus and direction, but they’re very good.
“They’re eager but they will make mistakes. It’s important to pick them up from those mistakes and teach them lessons.
“That’s what I’m paid to do, but it’s exciting times. I’m excited about trying to do something special with this group, not just in Europe, which we’ve already done and hope to continue doing, but domestically as well.”
The 41-year-old Canadian joined Panthers almost 12 years ago. Since then he has been a part of winning 14 trophies as a player and/or coach, as well as qualifying to play for Great Britain.
He admits it has not always been plain sailing with some Panthers teams struggling to make the impact hoped for.
However, only two seasons since his arrival have ended without any kind of silverware being won.
With that in mind, Neilson is understandably proud of what has been achieved.
“I’m proud of every day I’ve been able to come and work with the Panthers. It hasn’t always been fun,” he said.
“I’ve not always been winning these awards, or getting acknowledged, or even being appreciated.
“Sometimes I didn’t deserve to be appreciated! There’s been some great highs and they far outweigh the lows.”