The Ice Hockey Annual believe that this sport needs:

  • A strong, independent, national governing body.
  • A national men's senior team in the top 16 of the world rankings.
  • Better coaching at all age levels.
  • One national league.
  • Partnerships between the governing body and (bodies representing) the leagues, players, media, officials and fans.


To help celebrate the centenary of ice hockey’s governing body, Stewart Roberts, the editor of The Ice Hockey Annual, describes some of the sport’s major events and personalities of the last 100 years.

Ice hockey was first played in Britain during the dying years of the 19th century when it was a strictly amateur game, played mostly on small indoor rinks.

The game’s greatest pioneer was Peter Patton, a multi-faceted man who was the founder and first president in 1913 of the sport’s original governing body, the British Ice Hockey Association (BIHA).

The public school educated Patton, who was born in London in 1876, was a soldier by profession and rose to the rank of Major. He was one of the pioneers not just of British ice hockey but also of world ice hockey, being instrumental in the formation in 1908 of the world governing body, now the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
The GB team at the first Winter Olympics in 1924. Peter Patton, aged 48 and the practice netminder, is third from left.
He was also president of Britain’s and Europe’s first league in 1903-04. The only British clubs at this time were Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Princes (London), Manchester, and the Royal Engineers, based at Chatham, Kent.

After the Great War, there were few places left which were suitable for ice hockey – at one point in the 1920s there was just one rink, in Manchester. This forced the players to cross the Channel where games could be played outdoors as well as indoors.

The nationality rules were different in those days. The British national team took full advantage of one which permitted Canadians to play for this country as Canada was a British Dominion. In 1924, when Britain won bronze in the first Winter Olympics behind Canada and the USA, six of their ten players were Canadians serving in the British Army. Only one was British-born.

While Britain were tasting success in the World and European Championships on the Continent, from the late 1920s new rinks began to open in England and Scotland, and by 1931-32 there were enough for an English League to be formed. In the first season the teams finished in the following order: Oxford University, Grosvenor House (Westminster) Canadians, Princes (London), London Lions (Golders Green), Manchester, Sussex (Hove) and Cambridge University.

The whole complexion of the game changed in the mid-1930s when a series of large ice arenas opened in London at Wembley, Earls Court and Harringay (north London). With the addition of smaller buildings in Brighton, Richmond and Streatham a virtually professional league was created in season 1935-36.

These clubs were able to pay higher wages than Depression-hit North America and they brought over some top class players from Canada, several of whom later returned to compete in the National Hockey League (NHL), North America’s major professional league. During the years before World War Two, a time when public entertainments were few, the arena teams attracted crowds of up to 10,000. This unprecedented spell is now known as the sport’s Golden Era.

Forgive us if we select just two names to illustrate this glamorous period - Chick Zamick and Sonny Rost. Both Canadian, they achieved far greater fame on this side of the Atlantic than they ever did at home. The diminutive Zamick came here after World War Two to join the newly formed Nottingham Panthers and became a legend on Lower Parliament Street for his swift skating and high scoring.

Rost (left), a defenceman, was in the first wave of North American imports in the mid-1930s when he was recruited for Wembley Lions’ inaugural season. His bone-crunching feats on the blueline were a feature of Lions’ teams until the 1960s.

In addition, several of his male descendants also took to the sport, notably his son John Rost, a player and coach at Streatham, and his grandson Warren Rost of Slough Jets. Rost, Zamick and many of their teammates, it is worth noting, would have been paid at least as much as their opposite numbers in football, and sometimes more.

The national team also hit a never-to-be-repeated high spot when in 1936 they won the Triple Crown of Olympic, World and European titles in Bavaria. Their Canadian coach, Percy Nicklin of Richmond, and their Irish manager, John (Bunny) Ahearne, had scouted widely in Canada to find eligible British-born players.

One of the stars of the side was Streatham’s Gerry Davey (left), with seven goals in six games. Davey, 21, was one of the few to stay in the squad until the next Winter Olympics in 1948. His five goals in St Moritz, Switzerland gave him a total of 44 in 45 games for GB, a record that still stands today.

The team captain was Carl Erhardt (right) who had also skippered the side when they won the bronze medal a year earlier. Born in England and educated in Germany and Switzerland, he was renowned as a gentlemanly defenceman who set an example of fair play and common sense, encouraging his men to play with style and class. His slim 1937 book Ice Hockey provides useful insights into the sport.
He went on to coach GB at the 1948 Olympics and refereed at the 1950 World Championships in London. He served on the BIHA from the early 1930s and was a vice-president of the governing body from 1936 until the late 1970s.

GB’s manager, ‘Bunny’ Ahearne, was another of the sport’s early movers and shakers. Born in Ireland in 1901, he had a reputation as a shrewd businessman after establishing a successful travel agency in London. He was appointed secretary of the BIHA in 1934 and went on to become the dominant figure in British and world ice hockey until the 1970s.

The sport continued to enjoy enormous success both domestically (a Scottish National League was formed in season 1938-39) and internationally until the early 1950s. By then television was becoming a big attraction. With the economy beginning to favour North America, the imported players wanted more money; consequently, the arenas found other spectacles more profitable than ice hockey. One by one, the large venues closed and in 1960 the dwindling national league (the English and Scottish ones merged in season 1954-55) folded.

Despite only intermittent appearances, the national team managed to hold on to their place in world’s top ten. A sixth place finish in the 1953 World Championships was followed by an eight-year gap. When they returned in 1961, GB were boosted by several talented home-grown players who had learned the game in the national league.

These included a number of future Hall of Famers [see later] - netminders Willie Clark and Glynne Thomas, defencemen Billy Brennan, Johnny Carlyle, Red Imrie and Roy Shepherd and forwards Jack Dryburgh (left), Ian Forbes, Johnny Murray (right), Mike O’Brien and Jimmy Spence. In Switzerland the squad finished eighth in Europe and tenth in the world.

When Cold War politics resulted in the refusal of three leading nations to participate in the 1962 games in Colorado Springs, USA, Britain were ‘promoted’ to the championships’ elite division and placed sixth in Europe and eighth in the world. But they would never again reach these dizzy heights. Back at home, an amateur Northern League was eventually established in 1966 with teams based in Ayr, Crossmyloof (Glasgow), Dundee, Kirkcaldy, Murrayfield and Paisley in Scotland and Durham and Whitley Bay in England.

This league, which lasted until 1982, was staffed almost entirely by home-grown players, a mixture of those with experience in the old national league and some gifted youngsters who went on to play internationally and enjoy Hall of Fame careers - Peter Johnson (right), Gordon Latto, brothers Les and Lawrie Lovell, Terry Matthews (left), Jackson McBride, Joe McIntosh, Alfie Miller and Derek Reilly.

The absence of a strong national league was reflected in the fortunes of the national squad. After finishing 14th and 16th respectively in the 1965 and 1966 World Championships, the BIHA again withdrew the team, this time for five years.

Outside the north-east, the ice rink situation in England was disastrous. The only venues were in Altrincham, Solihull and Blackpool where the Ice Drome was built as a theatre for ice shows with a horseshoe-shaped pad!

Nevertheless, with the addition of players based in London and Brighton, a Southern League was put together in 1970. This lasted in various formats until 1982 when there were at last enough teams to re-form a national league.

Cue another transformation of the sport which now entered a period of phenomenal growth and the start of the Modern Era. The reasons were two-fold: a successful campaign by the old Sports Council to remedy the dearth of ice rinks, and the injection of previously unheard-of sums of money into the national league by the brewers, Whitbread, under their brand name of Heineken.

The negotiations with Whitbread were handled by the BIHA’s new president, Frederick Meredith (right), who took over from ‘Bunny’ Ahearne when he retired from the governing body after nearly 50 years in charge. Meredith, a Berkshire-based management consultant, was born in Montreal and came to Britain to attend Cambridge University where he was a netminder and captain of the varsity ice hockey team.

Season 1983-84 was the first one of the new Heineken League which was composed of 20 teams, nine in the Premier Division and 11 in Division One. The sponsorship was worth £100,000 in the first year. When it ended in 1992-93 after ten campaigns, it was calculated that the deal as a whole had been worth a cool £5 million.

Some of the money was used to defray the teams’ travel expenses, but it mostly went towards promoting the game and especially towards hiring the prestigious Wembley Arena for the end-of-season Heineken Championships.

By the late 1980s, this courageous move had the fans packing the famous old building with up to 9,000 watching each of the three games. With the help of BBC TV, who regularly televised the finals live on the popular Grandstand weekend sports show, the name of Wembley became famous as ice hockey’s ‘spiritual home’.

With the sport now receiving unprecedented media coverage, the sponsor encouraged the formation of a journalists’ group, known as the British Ice Hockey Writers Association (BIHWA), which was designed to recognise the best players.

In addition to choosing players of the month and annual All-Star teams, BIHWA – now Ice Hockey Journalists UK – recreated British ice hockey’s own Hall of Fame. The original Hall had been set up in 1948 by Canadian Bob Giddens, the founder and editor of Britain’s and the world’s first weekly ice hockey newspaper, Ice Hockey World.

The Hall continues to this day, with the criterion for induction being simply for rendering ‘outstanding service to British ice hockey’. Most of the personalities mentioned in this article are members of the Hall. A full list can be found on the journalists’ website at

Meanwhile, new rinks were springing up all over the country. Starting with Peterborough in 1981, by the end of the ‘Heineken Era’ in 1993 when the Guildford Spectrum began trading, a total of 30 new buildings were in business. Importantly, half of them were in the south of England, in the most densely populated part of the country around the newly opened M25 motorway.

As the league expanded into a third division to cope with all the new clubs, more companies became eager to sponsor British ice hockey. In season 1985-86 President Meredith signed a three-year, £50,000 contract with Norwich Union Insurance to back the Autumn Cup, and the Scottish Ice Hockey Association went one better with Imperial Tobacco agreeing to put their brand name of Regal on the Scottish Cup for the same sum over two years.

The most successful team of the 1980s was Tom Stewart’s Dundee Rockets. In 1983, they were the first British team to participate in the European Cup (now the Continental Cup).

Two years later Stewart, who ran a successful scaffolding business in the city, made the signing of the decade, and one of the most spectacular of all-time, with Garry Unger. The 37-year-old Canadian was known as the NHL’s Iron Man for making a record 914 consecutive appearances in the Show.

The high-scoring forward also made an unusual contribution to the sport. In 1981-82 a precocious Edinburgh youngster, Tony Hand (right), had made his debut for Murrayfield Racers at the age of 14. Four years later he had risen to fourth in Heineken League scoring behind three prolific Canadian marksmen. (The Heineken League restricted overseas players to three per team.)
Unger was so impressed by Hand that he arranged for him to be drafted by his last NHL team, Edmonton Oilers, home of the famed Wayne Gretzky. After watching Hand in practices and a couple of exhibition games in Edmonton, Oilers’ coach Glen Sather was also taken with Hand - he likened his skills to the Great One’s - and offered him a contract. But Tony, who had just turned 19, was a home town boy and, homesick, he returned to the Racers.

Season 1987-88 was a notable one for the sport’s administration. The BIHA employed its first full-time referee, Dutchman Nico Toemen, and a controversial new secretary, David Pickles, replaced the well-liked but now overworked Mrs Pat Marsh who had been secretary to Bunny Ahearne for many years. Mrs Marsh was inducted into Britain’s Hall of Fame and honoured by the world governing body with a special award for her services to the sport.

In the spring of 1989, Britain’s senior men’s team returned to the World Championships for the first time in eight years, this time under Whitley Warriors’ English coach and ex-GB forward, Terry Matthews. After their lengthy absence, GB had to enter the bottom group, Pool D, but they failed to win the expected promotion and were ranked a lowly 27th in the world. Nevertheless, the enormous media interest in ice hockey ensured that more than 20 newspaper, radio and telephone hotline correspondents travelled to Belgium to report on the team’s fortunes. The BIHA, meanwhile, announced that its registered players had increased by 150 per cent in the last five years.

A year later, Britain began the long climb back to some sort of international respectability by gaining promotion to Pool C. GB’s coach for these games, held in Cardiff, was the respected Canadian Alex Dampier (left), who was then with Nottingham Panthers. ‘Damps’ is credited with nurturing the young Tony Hand when both were at Murrayfield.

Three game-changing events took place during the 1991-92 campaign. First in the October came the new £30 million, 8,500-seat Sheffield Arena, the largest building in Britain with a permanent ice pad. By the end of the season, extra seating had to be installed to cope with all the fans keen to watch the new sport, and the Steelers drew the biggest crowds since the post-war years.

In March 1992, tobacco company Gallaher Ltd announced a three-year deal to sponsor the Autumn Cup which was renamed the Benson and Hedges Cup. A month later, the GB team won their second World Championship promotion in three years, this time into Pool B and the top 20 of the world’s hockey nations.

Britain’s venture into Pool B was a complete success with Dampier’s 1993 squad earning promotion for a third straight time, this time in the Dutch city of Eindhoven. Bolstered by ten Anglo-Canadians, Britain had a perfect series, winning all their seven games, with three shutouts, shooting them up the world rankings to 12th place. It would not be stretching things too far to say that this was GB’s finest international moment since 1936.

Englishman Stephen Cooper of Cardiff Devils (left) was voted the tournament’s Best Defenceman and British-Canadian Tim Cranston (previously with Durham Wasps) scored three game-winning goals. Scot Tony Hand, Stephen’s brother, Ian Cooper (right with the Ahearne Medal for services to the sport), and another English pair, Anthony and Stephen Johnson, were the pick of the home-grown skaters.

But sadly the aftermath of all this success was calamity – Whitbread’s decision to end their financial backing and the resultant loss of their steadying hand behind the scenes; Britain’s swift relegation from the World A Pool; and rows among the top clubs over wage-capping and players’ nationality. All combined to give the governing body some major headaches.

David Frame, previously with Cardiff Devils, was appointed the BIHA’s first chief executive in March 1994 and he struggled manfully to cope with all these difficulties.

Then there was the rise of the arena clubs. Three opened in 13 months - Manchester (July 1995), Newcastle (November 1995) and Ayr-Prestwick (August 1996) - bringing fresh problems as they, too, attracted thousands of new fans almost overnight.

Manchester Storm, heavily promoted by former Sheffield Steelers’ public relations man, Dave Biggar, raised the crowd record in their first season to an all-time high of 16,344 - for a game in the second division.

Even this figure was exceeded a year later on 23 February 1997 when the Storm hosted the Steelers in front of a staggering 17,245 fans with over 1,500 unable to obtain tickets. The game was shown live on Sky Sports.

(Being able to put these sort of attendance figures on his CV later helped the ambitious Biggar to acquire a good position with the Madison Square Garden Co. in New York.)

Eventually, the arena teams announced that they were setting up their own league, the Ice Hockey Superleague, independent of the governing body, to begin play in season 1996-97.

The original clubs and owners were: Basingstoke Bison (Malcolm Chamberlain of Civic Leisure) – a larger rink was planned for the Hampshire town; Bracknell Bees (John Nike), Cardiff Devils (David Temme of Brent Walker), Durham Wasps (Sir John Hall, chairman of Newcastle Utd FC), Guildford Flames (John Hepburn of merchant bankers, Morgan Stanley), Manchester Storm (John Lord of Ogden Entertainment Services) and Sheffield Steelers (businessmen Steve Crowther and George Dodds).

David Temme, the co-owner of Cardiff Devils, was chairman of Ice Hockey Superleague Ltd from 1996 to 2000.

Nottingham Panthers (under long-time owner Charles Walker) and Bill Barr’s Scottish Eagles, which called Ayr’s Centrum home, joined the Original Seven later, but Guildford Flames dropped out before the first puck was dropped, leaving eight for the league’s inaugural campaign.

The fully professional circuit - administrators as well as players - signed the best hockeyists money could buy, regardless of their nationality, eventually spending possibly £20 million, which put Heineken’s investment in the shade. It was British ice hockey’s first pro league since the 1950s.

Superleague’s top banana, financially speaking, was Philip Anschutz, an American billionaire who controlled the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), owners of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and their arena and many other sports teams and buildings in North America. One of the world’s wealthiest men, he ran London Knights from the converted London Arena in Docklands. But like all the league’s owners, he lost several million in the process.

The ambitious but mismanaged league lasted just seven seasons, coinciding with one of the strongest economic climates this country has ever enjoyed. Only three teams lasted the distance: Sheffield, Nottingham and the unfashionable Bracknell Bees. The Panthers survived through acquiring a wealthy new owner, Neil Black, and a large modern arena. The Steelers barely hung on after bankrupting more than one owner, and having one imprisoned for fraud.

The only other team to reach the finishing line were Belfast Giants, who joined in 2000 on the completion of the Odyssey Arena in the Northern Ireland capital.

The league’s troubles also helped to bring down the 64-year-old governing body. The basically amateur organisation had never been designed to cope with professional hockey. President Meredith handed control to David Frame.

But Mr Frame, a former director of marketing with the company who owned the Wales National Ice Rink, resigned in 1997 after barely three years in the post. He had failed to raise enough sponsorship to cover the costs of his administration and the BIHA reported an annual loss of nearly £40,000, compared with a profit of a similar amount in the previous year.

As their finances continued to flounder (there were rumours of financial mismanagement), in December 1998 the BIHA’s entire ruling council resigned and in July 1999 a new governing authority, Ice Hockey UK, was launched under the guidance of the Sports Council.

The Sports Council’s guidelines called, somewhat idealistically, for 400 different organisations within the sport to vote for a new five-man Executive Board. While this was achieved initially, when the terms of the five expired, Ice Hockey UK reverted to the BIHA’s comfortable old method of electing officials from within its own circle.

Both the current officers are experienced ice hockey administrators. The chairman is Mohammed Ashraff, who was previously with the English Ice Hockey Association. Andy French, who served several years as the Elite League’s director of hockey, has been the general secretary since 2005.

Below the Superleague, in 1996-97 the remaining clubs formed first a Premier League, then a British National League which lasted until season 2005-06. This often came into conflict with the top league, creating more nightmares for the hard-pressed governing body.

The GB team now began playing some important games under the leadership of Peter Woods (right), a highly qualified coach, who took over in 1996. Woods, from Winnipeg, had family in Portsmouth and coached Superleague side, Basingstoke Bison. He was also the league’s Director of Sport.
One of his first tasks was guiding GB through a long series of qualifying matches for the 1998 Winter Olympics. These culminated in a 3-3 tie with Switzerland at Sheffield Arena when a win would have taken the dual national-dominated GB through to the next round. Woods, who had a passion for the Old Country, was devastated.

Among the – mostly dual national - stars of GB during the Woods’ era were forwards Paul Adey, Rick Brebant, Kevin Conway, David Longstaff, Steve Moria (left) and Hand, defenders Matt Coté, Darren Durdle, Shannon Hope, Doug McEwen and Rick Strachan, and goalie Bill Morrison.

In November 1999, Britain’s 18th place finish in that year’s World Championships made them eligible to compete for a place in the World A Pool. Playing in front of BBC TV cameras, GB drew their three games in Sheffield Arena, which required them to take part in a play-off decider against Norway in Eindhoven. Another bitter disappointment awaited Woods, his team and their hundreds of fans as GB lost 2-1.

It should be mentioned here that most of Britain’s fans belong to the GB Supporters Club which has been organising trips to the World Championships since the early 1990s. According to the IIHF, it is the world’s only club for the followers of a national side.

A couple of months later in Gdansk, Poland, Britain attempted to qualify for the 2002 Winter Olympics. This time they finished third of the four nations with only a win over Romania. It turned out to be GB’s last Olympic qualifying tournament for eight years as they withdrew from the next event due to lack of funds.

The dwindling resources available to GB led in 2000 to Woods’ resignation. It also led, inevitably, to Britain’s slide down the world rankings to a record low of 31st in 2006, though this was mostly due to their being deducted ranking points by the IIHF for their inability to compete in the Olympic Qualifying competition.

Woods’ successor was another Canadian, Chris McSorley. Brought to this country by the Anschutz Group, owners of London Arena and the Knights, to coach the Superleague team, McSorley made his name as a colourful character who pleased British fans by promoting the rougher side of the sport. (One of his brothers, Marty, was famous in the NHL for acting as Wayne Gretzky’s ‘minder’.)

His appointment to the national team, therefore, was a surprise as physical hockey is frowned on in the international game. Moreover, he was to receive only minimal financial compensation and Ice Hockey UK now insisted that home-grown talent should be given preference over dual nationals.

But McSorley showed great enthusiasm for his new role. He had been impressed with the Brits he had seen like David Clarke, Stevie Lyle, Ashley Tait (left), Michael Tasker, Jonathan Weaver (right) and, of course, Hand and Longstaff. To try and promote the team in this country (historically, GB had played nearly all its games overseas), he took his men on a national tour in the run-up to the 2002 World Championships, playing six games against a

mixture of local clubs and foreign nations. But with crowds dropping as low as 400 in Coventry, the project failed to cover its costs and has not been repeated since.

McSorley was in charge of the squad for four seasons, during which time he moved from London to Geneva to coach another of Anschutz’s clubs in the Swiss A league. But the hard-driving Canadian found working with Brits a lot different from coaching professional North Americans. This plus the strain of his full-time job with a leading European side and, of course, the age-old problem of finance led to his amicable parting from the team. During his reign, GB slipped from 18th to 25th in the world.

It wasn’t until 2010 that GB moved back above 25th, and by this time they were being mentored by Paul Thompson (right), only the team’s second English coach of the Modern Era. Thompson, who had won several trophies with his club side, Coventry Blaze, was another keen advocate of using local players. During his spell in the GB hot-seat, Robert Dowd, Ben O’Connor, Phil Hill, Robert Lachowicz and netminder Stephen Murphy established themselves as squad regulars.

‘Thommo’, as he is universally known, proved to be GB’s most successful coach since Alex Dampier, driving the team from 29th to 21st in the world during his five years in the hot seat. He resigned after the 2011 World Championships only with the greatest reluctance, having failed to persuade the governing body to find the resources he believed were essential if GB were to continue their climb up the slippery international ladder.

Britain’s most renowned player, Tony Hand, who was awarded the MBE in 2004 for his services to the sport, realised a cherished ambition when he was appointed as Thompson’s successor. The all-time leading points scorer for GB and in British club hockey, Tony recently retired from playing to concentrate on coaching his team Manchester Phoenix in the sport’s second tier English Premier League (EPIHL).

Under Hand’s guidance, GB did themselves great credit by reaching the final round of Olympic Qualifying in November 2012 for the first time.

Britain has an aging team with few obvious replacements and a serious funding deficit compared with their opponents. In April 2013, GB were relegated from their World Championship group for the first time in two decades, leaving them in 22nd place in the world rankings and Hand later resigned. Back with domestic hockey, the game has stabilised somewhat since the folding of the Superleague in 2003 and the short-lived British National League three years later.

The top two leagues are now the Elite League (EIHL) and the English Premier League. But as is the way with many team sports these days, there is no promotion or relegation between these leagues. Indeed, each is run separately from the other and neither is under the direct control of Ice Hockey UK.

The Elite League is an independent body, a trimmed-down version of the Superleague but with more manageable budgets. Not that this has prevented some unfortunate liquidations and other unwelcome problems. Like the Superleague, the Elite’s clubs are permitted to employ players from wherever they wish and, unfortunately for the national team, this means few have the ancestry to become eligible for GB.

The EPIHL is under the umbrella of the 34-year-old English Ice Hockey Association, a sprawling body which controls all ice hockey south of the border - senior and junior, men and women - outside the Elite League. The EIHA has been chaired throughout its existence by a colourful American, Ken Taggart, an ex-USAF sergeant who still resides in the States.

A self-styled ‘development league’, the EPIHL has a limit of four players (three on the ice at any one time) who have not been trained in this country. Catering for clubs with modest budgets, this formula has enabled the league - and its direct predecessors - to exist continuously since 1989. This is just the tip of the, er, iceberg. Below the EPIHL are four regionalised amateur leagues, containing almost 40 teams. There is a nine-strong Women’s League, and the numerous junior sides are organised down to under-12 level. A similar though smaller setup exists in Scotland. Most of this huge growth has come about since the 1980s. As noted earlier, the opening of the Peterborough ice rink in 1981 heralded the largest programme of rink construction in our history. When Widnes on Merseyside opened late last year it brought to 44 the total number of ice surfaces used by the sport.

But with a population of around 60 million to serve, these venues are under constant pressure. Ice hockey, a minority sport, has to fight for its place in the pecking order. Consequently, this welcome move has not been reflected in a commensurate increase in players talented enough to play in the top league or to be selected for their country. The Elite League is almost as heavily dominated by overseas players as its predecessor was in the 1950s.

Peter Russell was appointed head coach of Great Britain for the 2015 World Championships. Scotsman Russell, a former netminder, spent several years coaching GB’s junior teams as well as heading an ice hockey academy in Swindon.
Russell brought in some much needed new blood, but Britain’s major obstacle continues to be a serious lack of funding, especially compared to their constantly improving international opponents. Though they made a serious challenge for promotion in April this year, GB are currently 24th in the world rankings.
We must mention here GB’s longest serving players, David Longstaff, 40, who quit the international scene in 2013 with 101 caps for his country, and Ashley Tait, who last played in 2014 after a record 102 games. ‘Lobby’ Longstaff has just returned to his home town club, Whitley Warriors, as their player-coach. Tait, 39, has signed for a remarkable 26th season in domestic hockey, back with the Elite League’s Coventry Blaze for a third year.

The oldest and longest serving player, Whitley Bay-born David Longstaff (left), 38, quit the international scene late last year with a record 101 caps for his country. The popular Guildford Flames’ forward, who is now an assistant with the national team, is one of an elite few to have played over 1,100 games in this country. A decade ago, he enjoyed a season with one of Sweden’s leading clubs.

The 1980s rinks’ boom also enabled the creation of national junior squads - under-20s and under-18s – but they have struggled to make much headway in the World Junior Championships. Neither is among the world’s leading 20 nations. Ice Hockey UK, however, was recently successful in their bid to host the groups in which these teams will compete next year. The hope is that by holding the championships in Dumfries, Scotland the teenagers’ international standings will improve.

A British women’s team first took part in the European Championships in the early 1990s and by 1999 felt strong enough to enter their first World Championships. Britain hosted Division IB of the championships in 2013.

Stewart gratefully acknowledges the historical research conducted by Martin C Harris, David Gordon and Gordon Wade of Ice Hockey Journalists UK which he used in compiling this article. Photos are courtesy of the Harris Archives, Diane Davey, Ice Hockey Journalists UK and The Ice Hockey Annual.

(updated June 2015)