Only the very few make the grade to play ice hockey in North America. It is Canada’s national sport and the Americans love it – you almost can’t turn a corner without finding an ice rink, or most likely a hockey-mad family’s back yard turned into an ice rink.

The people of Nottingham certainly love their ice hockey too, as more than 5,000 turn out every week to watch Nottingham Panthers play at the Motorpoint Arena Nottingham and the club regularly has 6,300 sell-out crowds, especially against arch rivals Sheffield Steelers.

The sport’s famous old names roll off the tongue; Gretzky, Orr, Howe, Lemieux to name but a few, while Sydney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are two of the players who have been on everyone’s lips for the last decade or so and now new stars are being born, such as Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews.

In Nottingham, most people have heard of Zamick, Strongman, Adey, Hadden and Nieckar and the more recent heroes such as current coach Corey Neilson and prolific British forward David Clarke.

It has been a great start to the season for the Panthers as they top their Champions League group, producing three wins from four matches against sides with far superior budgets than their own.

The results of the lowest-ranked side and 32nd seed have included a 4-2 victory over Swiss side Bern, who are seeded fourth in the prestigious European tournament – and Perlini is already making his mark in Nottingham.

Brett Perlini, Nottingham Panthers

Brett Perlini

The name Perlini is one which is well known in UK ice hockey, especially in Nottingham, but now across the ice hockey world.

Not many British players get drafted in the NHL but Brett and his younger brother Brendan have both been drafted, with Brett being picked in the seventh round by Anaheim Ducks in 2010.

Brendan, 21, was amongst the top prospects in the 2014 draft, being picked 12th in the first round by Arizona Coyotes and he had his breakthrough in the NHL last season.

Brett’s dad, Fred, played for the Panthers in 1986-87, where he scored a staggering 89 goals in 35 matches and went on to ice for numerous clubs in the UK, including Fife Flyers, Streatham Redskins and Guildford Flames.

The Perlini brothers are proof that players from the UK can make it in some of the best leagues in the world, but how tough is it making it in North America when you are from Great Britain, who are ranked 24th in the world?

“At first I think people would look and go ‘oh this guy is from England’, so you definitely have to do your talking on the ice,” Perlini said. “You just need to go out and score a couple of goals and then they go ‘oh yes, he’s legit’.

“I think a lot of the kids in this country think the Canadians are so good at hockey, which they are, but a lot of kids from the UK are right there with them.”

Brett’s younger brother, Brendan, is a great example with the 21-year-old appearing 57 times for NHL side Arizona Coyotes last season, scoring 14 goals and contributing seven assists for 21 points.

“I think the young kids should look at the North America route, like my brother and I took, and my brother is a good example,” continued Perlini.

“He played hockey in England and now he is in the NHL, so it definitely can be done and hopefully that can inspire young players.”

Panthers have made a great start in the CHL and need one more win from their final two groups games to guarantee their progress to the knockout stages, but that must wait until October as the domestic campaign now comes to the fore.

“We had some good games in Europe and we are looking to take that into the league now,” continue Perlini. “We want to start at a good pace and set the tone for the rest of the season.

“We have to take the confidence from the Champions Hockey League and use it in a good way. You can’t look at any opponent differently. You just have to play your game and make them adapt to you.

“Teams will have seen how well we have done in the CHL and they will be after us. It’s an added pressure we will have to deal with but we are looking forward to it.”

Looking to cheer on the Panthers? You can check out their upcoming fixtures here.