Gordon Wade and Stewart Roberts, two of the most knowledgeable authorities on the history of ice hockey in Great Britain, offer some interesting facts about the way the game has developed.
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The first mention of ice hockey being played in Britain is of 'an ice hockey match played at Buckingham Palace in 1895'. Two future kings iced for the Palace side against a team led by Lord Stanley - not the donor of the NHL’s Stanley Cup but the eldest of his seven sons.
Contemporary books about the early days of the sport refer to Niagara being the first English Club Champions in 1898. This team played out of the Niagara ice rink which was situated close to St James Park Station in London.
Ice hockey was first played in Scotland in about 1908 in Glasgow on a rink that had a bandstand erected on pillars in the middle of the ice surface.
|1903/04||The first ice hockey league was formed in England and won by London Canadians.|
1910; England won the first ever European Championship.
defeat Scotland 11-1 at Princes Ice Rink, London in the first ever home
The British Ice Hockey
Association was founded, although they effectively controlled only
England; the Scots had the final say on matters
Britain won the bronze medal at the 1924 Olympics staged in Chamonix. From the end of World War One until the mid-Twenties ice hockey was a sport for the wealthy few. There were few rinks in Britain so the players (often Canadians from British universities) were forced to travel to the Continent where Switzerland was their favourite haunt.
after 1926 when the first Canadian team visited this country (Montreal
new ice rinks opened.
Lions beat Glasgow Mohawks to win the first British Championship
first Scottish League was formed.
Britain played in the first World Championship finishing 10th.
|1931/32||The English League (first formed in 1929/30) was completed for the first time.|
|1934/35||In October, the Empire Pool at Wembley (later known as Wembley Arena) staged ice hockey for the first time.|
season marked the start of a remarkable period which continued up to the
outbreak of World War Two and for several seasons thereafter. It
is considered the game's Golden Era.
Large arenas opened
at Earls Court (1935) and Harringay (1936), joining Wembley in icing
two teams in the new English National League. All the teams played
was a similar explosion in Scotland where a thriving
February 1936 came our national team's amazing Triple Crown
triumph when they won the Olympic, World & European titles
Harringay Racers vs Streatham on October 26, was the
first game to be shown on
|1939/40||Despite the outbreak of World War Two, the season was completed, though without Earls Court, Brighton or Glasgow.|
Services hockey was played
at various arenas, although at one
sport returned with leagues in England and Scotland similar to
those operating before
The sport went British with the amalgamation of the
English and Scottish
|1955/56||The British League was reduced to five teams - Brighton Tigers, Harringay Racers, Nottingham Panthers, Paisley Pirates and Wembley Lions.|
‘semi-pro’ British League, now icing a sprinkling of British talent,
Earls Court had withdrawn in 1953 and Harringay in 1958.
hockey continued in Scotland and in England at Altrincham,
Blackpool, Brighton, Durham, Southampton and Whitley Bay. This took
the form of home
Southampton Vikings folded in 1963 and the team moved to Wembley where they played as the Lions until the end of 1968.
Brighton Sports Stadium, home of the Brighton Tigers, closed in 1965 after 30 years.
Teams in northern England competed for the Icy Smith Cup, a knockout tournament named in honour of the founder of Durham ice rink.
The Northern League was
established with nine teams. Durham, always a hotbed
who staged home tournaments against visiting Northern League sides,
The Southern League was established with five
teams but only three had home ice.
Detroit Red Wings put a farm team, London Lions,
into Wembley Arena playing challenge games three times a week -
except during the three-month panto season - against top European sides
including Moscow Dynamo and Helsinki IFK. John Zeigler,
Icy Smith Cup was expanded to include teams from southern England.
The BIHA agreed that the cup winners - decided in a two-leg final between
the top teams from the north
The Southern League expanded
from ten to 14 teams, Oxford and Cambridge Universities being among the
new entrants. All over the country the game was growing with
several clubs adding reserve and junior teams. Though there
Southern League split. The stronger sides, certainly at the top, formed
|1980/81||Nottingham Panthers returned to the sport after an absence of 20 years.|
Aseason of major changes and many leagues while the playing standards between the top sides in the Northern and Inter-City Leagues continued to grow closer. In addition to games in the Northern League, English League North and English League South, the leading teams in England
and Scotland revived their national leagues, though these lasted for only one season.
end-of-season British Championships - the successor to the Icy Smith Cup
- was contested between the winners of the English
Tom Stewart imported three top quality Canadians for his Rockets
(including Hall of Famer Roy Halpin) and is generally credited with
League was revived with 15
end-of-season championships at Streatham were sponsored by brewers
Whitbread under their brand name of Heineken. Thus began what
became a ten-year sponsorship of the British League, the
largest deal of its kind that the sport had ever enjoyed.
Frederick Meredith became BIHA President in 1982.
This season is generally considered to mark the start of the game's Modern Era.
The British League was re-titled the Heineken League with a Premier Division and Division One and continued until the advent of the Superleague in 1996-97.
Rockets became the first British team to enter the European Cup.
British Autumn Cup was revived, sponsored by Bluecol. (See a list
of modern era ‘autumn’ cup winners below).
The end-of-season playoffs went to Wembley Arena in April 1984, where they were known as the Heineken Championships. Though the sponsorship ended in 1994, the finals remained there until 1996.
Hand, 18, of Murrayfield Racers was the first British trained player to
Ice rinks were opening all over Britain. Eleven, including Cardiff, Basingstoke, Bracknell and Slough, were completed between 1986 and 1988.
to the World Championship for the first time in 8 years but could
Sheffield Steelers were formed. The first team
included a number of the Solihull
Heineken sponsorship ended after ten great years and £5 million.
Benson & Hedges agreed sponsorship of the Autumn Cup.
Britain won promotion to Pool A of the World Championships.
|1993/94||Britain are relegated to Pool B|
structure of the sport was turned upside down with the introduction of
Eight teams formed the ISL which saw a big increase in playing standard due to the improved quality and the use of unlimited numbers of imported players.
Below the Superleague the sport went through the pain of finding its level. Swindon IceLords, for example, the champions of the league below Superleague, melted away into history during the summer.
The British record crowd was set on 23 February when the ISL's Manchester Storm hosted Sheffield Steelers in Manchester's 17,500-seat MEN Arena. The game, which was shown live on Sky TV, attracted a record crowd of 17,245 with over 1,500 fans unable to obtain tickets.
Ayr Scottish Eagles won all four competitions run by the ISL.
A nine-team British National League (BNL) was formed from all the leading clubs below the Superleague.
Bison withdrew from the ISL.
Sekonda announced a sponsorship deal with the Superleague.
London Knights entered the
Superleague playing out of the 10,000-capacity
Ice Hockey UK, the sport's new governing body, was formed in July 1999, replacing the British Ice Hockey Association (formed 1913). In March, Nottingham Panthers played their last game in the 60-year-old Ice Stadium.
Four new rinks opened in calendar year 2000: the Coventry Skydome, Nottingham's National Ice Centre , the Dundee Ice Arena and Belfast's Odyssey Arena. In December, Benson and Hedges ended their sponsorship of the Autumn Cup after pouring over £2 million into the game in nine years and Sekonda did not renew their three-year contract with Superleague at the end of the season. Sheffield Steeelers, the country's most successful team, collapsed with heavy debts, but were later revived under new ownership.
|2001/02||Superleague's controversial chief executive, Ian Taylor, left in April 'by mutual agreement'. Ayr Scottish Eagles folded at the end of the season. Ice Hockey News (Review) closed in April after 21 years following the death of its founder Vic Batchelder, a member of the Hall of Fame.|
Superleague was put into liquidation and their three surviving clubs, Belfast Giants, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers, persuaded five others to join them in forming the new Elite League. These were Basingstoke Bison, Cardiff Devils and Coventry Blaze of the British National League; Manchester Phoenix, created to replace the collapsed Storm; and a new team, London Racers, which started the season playing in Alexandra Palace.
iceSheffield, a two-rink complex, opened next to the Sheffield Arena.
|2003/04||A series of Crossover Games was organised between the Elite League and the second tier British National League (BNL) as a forerunner to a hoped-for merger of the leagues. 'Manchester Phoenix withdrew from competition in the off-season to seek a less expensive venue than the MEN Arena. The Findus sponsorship of the BNL ended after three years. Alex Dampier, one of the most successful club and GB coaches of the modern era, returned to Canada.|
Coventry Blaze won the Grand Slam of all three Elite League titles.
Several players under contract to the NHL played in the UK when they were locked out of the world's biggest league due to a labour dispute.
The deaths occurred of Bill Britton and Frank Dempster, two of the sport's longest serving and most respected administrators.
The British National League (BNL) folded in the summer of 2005 after eight years and Edinburgh Capitals and Newcastle Vipers joined the Elite League. The other England-based teams dropped into the English Premier League (EPL) and Dundee Stars and Fife Flyers into the amateur Scottish National League (SNL).
The top two leagues were the nine-team Elite League, with 11 'imports' (players requiring an International Transfer Card) allowed per team, and the 13-team EPL which allowed only four 'imports' (three on the ice at one time). The Elite introduced a ‘two minutes for fighting’ rule which was fortunately short-lived.
Stanley Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist, Theo Fleury, joined Belfast
Giants who won the Elite League with the talented but feisty Fleury
capturing the scoring title (while racking up 270 penalty
Cardiff Devils, in their last season in the Wales National Ice Rink, won the Challenge Cup. The new Knockout Cup, introduced in mid-season, was captured by Sheffield Steelers.
poorly supported London Racers, owned by Roger Black, pulled out of the
Elite League in mid-season, citing problems with the Plexiglas at the
British senior men’s team slipped to 31st in the World Rankings, their
lowest ever placing.
Drackett, the doyen of British ice hockey journalists and an honorary
life member of IHJUK, died in December 2005.
Elite League increased their membership to ten with the addition of the
English Premier League’s Hull Stingrays and the return of Manchester
Phoenix after a two-season break.
league reduced their quota of ITC-holding players to ten but won
approval for an increase in players requiring a work permit (for players
without UK ancestry originating from outside the European Union) from
five to nine, the highest ever.
sport adopted the new IIHF rules interpretation, dubbed ‘zero
tolerance’, which penalised players for clutching, grabbing, hooking
or holding their opponents.
Elite League agreed a seven-year sponsorship deal with budget airline,
bmibaby. No figures were
Blaze’s Paul Thompson took over as coach of the GB senior men’s team
which moved up two places in the World Rankings.
Robertson, a former chairman of Ice Hockey
Coventry Blaze retain their title in the ten-team Elite League and
Guildford Flames win the 11-strong English Premier League (EPL).
Complete Elite League games are recorded and shown weekly on Sky Sports Xtra, the first time the top league has been regularly televised since the Superleague in 1999-2000.
Scotsman Tony Hand MBE, player-coach of the Elite’s Manchester Phoenix, plays his 1,000th league game and scores his 3,000th league point.
When David Taylor, the estate agent owner of the Elite League’s Basingstoke Bison, runs out of funds the team is saved from collapse by a Swedish businessman, Tomas Enerston. The league’s Cardiff Devils are bought by Matt Burge, an Australian businessman based in Penarth.
The EPL’s Bracknell Bees, also owned by Mr Taylor, are taken over by a consortium of fans headed by Shane and Katie Eleftheriou.
Elite League chairman, Eamon Convery, takes over from Bob Wilkinson as chairman of the governing body, Ice Hockey UK.
Two crowds of over 17,000 from all around Europe and the western USA jam into London’s 02 Arena in September 2007 to watch the first regular season NHL games ever played on this side of the Atlantic.
The deaths occur of several of the sport’s most illustrious names: Hall of Fame members Les Anning, Sonny Rost, Roy Shepherd and Chick Zamick; Lennie Baker, a 1948 Winter Olympic winger with GB; Ian Defty, a World Junior Championship player, who was only 28; and winter sports authority, Howard Bass, an honorary life member of this organisation.
|2008/09||Sheffield Steelers return to
their winning ways by capturing the Elite League title and the
Playoffs. Belfast Giants pick up the minor trophies, the
Challenge Cup and the Knockout Cup.
At the end of November Manchester Phoenix's player-coach Tony Hand MBE reaches 4,000 points in all major competitions - a British record - in Phoenix's 7-1 victory over the Stingrays in Hull. Hand later signs a three-year contract with the club.
In the English Premier League (EPL) Peterborough Phantoms, guided by Canadian coach Colin (the Professor) Patterson, pull off the Grand Slam of league, league cup and playoffs.
A downturn in the national economy contributes to a difficult season for the sport. The Elite League loses its travel sponsor Zoom Airlines at the start of the season and its title sponsor bmibaby (another budget airline) at the end.
The league's Basingstoke Bison stumble through the season with the help of their fans and the rink operators Planet Ice after Swedish businessman Tomas Enerston suddenly quits. At the end of the season, the Bison drop into the EPL.
They are quickly joined by Manchester Phoenix whose owner Neil Morris admits that running the team has cost him personally £700,000 in the last five years. This leaves the Elite League with eight members for season 2009-10 though Edinburgh Capitals and Newcastle Vipers admit they are struggling to attract fans.
At the end of the season the EPL loses two teams at the bottom end of the table, Telford Tigers and Wightlink Raiders, both for financial reasons. Bracknell Bees are re-financed by their fans and Romford Raiders undergo a change of ownership. This enables the league to remain at ten teams for season 2009-10.
Thankfully, there is good news on the international front. The men's and women's senior GB teams each win bronze in their World Division I groups, though the men remain mired in 25th place in the world rankings. The junior men do even better - though in Division II - with the GB under-18s winning gold and the under-20s silver.
Guildford Flames are honoured by being invited to take part in Queen Elizabeth II’s first state visit to Slovakia in October. The Flames provide the opposition in a demonstration exhibition game when Her Majesty drops the puck to start the game.
The sport loses popular photographer Dave Page to a heart attack at the age of 46, and Rob Laidler, 52, after a long battle with cancer. Rob was a director of the English IHA and chairman of the EPL and the English National League.
Coventry Blaze win the league, Belfast Giants the Play-offs and Nottingham Panthers the Challenge Cup. Sheffield Steelers win the new 20:20 Hockey Fest played in their home arena.
In the 2010 off-season, former British National League side, Dundee Stars, opt to join the league, and a consortium of league owners, led by Nottingham's Neil Black, creates the Braehead Clan who will become the league’s tenth team, playing out of the Braehead Arena, a 4,000-seater in a Glasgow suburban shopping mall. (The last pro team to play in the arena was the ill-fated, Bob Zeller-owned Scottish Eagles which played five games there in the autumn of 2002.)
Newcastle Vipers, who played over half the season in Whitley Bay, are again given insufficient dates in the city's arena and decide to play all their games in the seaside town for the new campaign.
After Sheffield Steelers run into serious financial problems for the second time in five years, the team is put up for sale by its owner, Bob Phillips, in July 2010.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE (EPL)
The league winners are Milton Keynes Lightning with Slough Jets capturing the Play-off title and Guildford Flames collecting the league cup.
At the end of the season, Romford Raiders drop out of the league and are 'replaced' by former EPL club Telford Tigers who are the first British ice hockey side to be run and financed by a football-style supporters trust.
Sheffield Scimitars fold and are replaced by a new team, Sheffield Steeldogs, still playing out of iceSheffield.
World Championships - the GB senior team finish a disappointing fourth in Div I, group B in April 2010 with two wins in five games. But they rise two places to 23rd in the IIHF world rankings. The team’s travel plans from Heathrow are disrupted by an ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano and they arrive only hours before the opening face-off in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
GB’s under-20s win promotion to Division I and the under-18s retain their place, also in Division I.
Continental Cup - despite struggling through probably their worst league season, Sheffield Steelers are the first British club for seven years to reach the cup finals held in Grenoble, France in January 2010. They finish third in the four-club tournament.
Overseas visitors - The first ever visit to Britain by two American Hockey League teams, Hamilton Bulldogs and Toronto Marlies, takes place in Edinburgh over the last weekend of September 2009. Elite League sides, Belfast Giants and the home team Capitals, also compete in the three-day, four-game tournament for the Gardiner Cup, named after the NHL’s legendary goalie, Charles (Chuck) Gardiner.
Belfast Giants’ and GB’s Hull-born defenceman David Phillips, who was invited to join Chicago Blackhawks' NHL prospects camp in July 2009, wins a place on their American Hockey League farm club, Rockford IceHogs, and succeeds in remaining on their roster throughout the 2009-10 season. The 22-year-old (born 14 August 1987) is the first British-born and trained player to compete at this level, which is second only to the NHL.
Ice Hockey UK board member, Neville Moralee, dies on 17 April 2010 after a short illness. He had served on the board of the governing body, Ice Hockey UK, since its inception in 2000 and was most recently its vice president. He also held the posts of director and treasurer of the English Ice Hockey Association.
August 2010. The owners of Coventry Blaze – Andy Buxton, Mike Cowley and coach Paul Thompson – take over control of Hull Stingrays from Mike and Sue Pack.
December 2010. Sheffield Steelers are bought by Devils’ owner, Paul Ragan, and put into his company, Rink Corp Ltd, with the Devils. He discovers and later reveals that Steelers’ wage-roll - which was set by former owner, Bob Phillips - exceeds the league’s cap.
January 2011. Cardiff Devils claim a world record with 22 straight victories in the league (21) and Challenge Cup.
March/April 2011. Sheffield Steelers and Cardiff Devils tie at the top of the league with the title going to the Steelers on the basis of more victories. Nottingham Panthers win the Play-offs and Challenge Cup. Edinburgh Capitals end their league season with 30 successive defeats, a new league, probably British, and possibly world record.
June 2011. Fife Flyers agree to join the Elite League. This marks the Kirkcaldy based team’s return to senior hockey for the first time since 2004-05. The Flyers replace Newcastle Vipers who folded at the end of the season.
On the same day (23rd), Rink Corp Ltd is wound up and later put into liquidation owing around £780,000. The ownership of the Devils and Steelers is split with Mr Ragan controlling the Devils and holding a 49 per cent minority stake in the Steelers. Sheffield businessman, Tony Smith of Rhino Sports, takes the other 51 per cent and will run the team on a day-to-day basis.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Tony Hand’s Manchester Phoenix win the league, Guildford Flames - who signed veteran GB international David Longstaff at the start of the season - win the Play-offs, and Slough Jets win the cup.
The 43-year-old Hand tops the league’s scoring with 133 points (108 assists) in 54 games.
GB take the silver medal in Division I, group B of the World Championships in Kiev, Ukraine, losing only one game, to group winners Kazakhstan. It is their best finish since 2001 and moves them up two places to 21st in the World Rankings. The bulk of the team is home-grown. Britain’s best player, Stephen Murphy, is voted netminder of the tournament.
But GB’s hopes of hosting next year’s championships are dashed when the IIHF awards them to Slovenia.
The under-20s win three of their five games in Belarus to stay in Division I of the World Junior Championships. But the under-18s lose all four of their contests in Riga, Latvia and are relegated to Division II.
In the Continental Cup held in Rouen, France, Coventry Blaze finish second in their group, after going down badly, 7-3, to their hosts in the last game.
In October 2010 the NHL’s Boston Bruins play a challenge match against an Elite League Select side at the Odyssey Arena.
GB defenceman David Phillips returns from two seasons in the North American minor leagues (one full season in the AHL) and signs with Coventry Blaze of the Elite League.
Player-coach Steve Moria, Basingstoke Bison’s remarkable athlete, turns 50 in February 2011.
The deaths occur of David Temme, 63, the former chairman of the Superleague and Cardiff Devils; and junior player, Alfie Skelton, 15, a member of the famous Rost family, who drowns while fishing.
September 2011. Rapid Solicitors become the league's title sponsor and help to fund the league's weekly games on Sky Sports.
December 2011. Coventry Blaze issue a plea for help following a 'shortfall' in sponsorship, a 25 per cent drop in sponsorship and the economic crisis.
March/April 2012. Belfast Giants win their second league title by 11 points, and Nottingham Panthers retain the play-off title and the Challenge Cup.
- Hull Stingrays change hands again, this time passing to their assistant coach, Bobby McEwan, a former player.
- In an attempt to contain costs, the league adopts an inter-locking schedule for 2012-13. The smaller, northern clubs - Braehead Clan, Dundee Stars, Edinburgh Capitals, Fife Flyers and Hull Stingrays - will play twice against each other and once against the remaining teams.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
March/April 2012. Guildford Flames win their third league title and their third league cup. Slough Jets take their third play-off trophy.
- Manchester Phoenix's player-coach Tony Hand MBE takes over as coach of the senior men's team from Paul Thompson, who stands down due to the financial problems at Coventry Blaze where he is a co-director.
- The World Championship groupings are revamped leaving GB facing some difficult competition. They finish fifth in their six-team group, with two wins, but retain their world ranking of 21st.
- The under-20 team lose all their games and are relegated back to Division II of their group. - The under-18s win twice and retain their place, also in Division II.
- Sheffield Steelers finish last in their four-club group in Denmark after failing to win a game.
Scottish international referee, Moray Hanson, a former netminder, retires after 38 years in the sport.
Basingstoke Bison's player-coach Steve Moria retires at the age of 51.
Eamon Convery stands down in January 2012 after four years as chairman of the Elite League and Ice Hockey UK. He is replaced on the governing body by EIHA administrator, Mohammed Ashraff, a former referee. The league leaves his position vacant.
In December 2011 Streatham Redskins, the country's oldest club, play their last game in the 80-year-old Streatham High Road rink. The club moves to a temporary rink in Brixton, pending their eventual return to a new rink in Streatham.