Ice Hockey UK is delighted to announce that its new Hall of Fame committee has completed the first of its annual deliberations and inducted netminders Charlie Huddlestone and Stevie Lyle, whom it considers to have given ‘outstanding service to British ice hockey’.
Scottish international netminder Huddlestone was one of the leading lights in the sport in the late 1950s and early 1960s, while Cardiff-born Lyle has a glittering trophy cabinet after making his debut at the age of 14.
Lyle said: “I have so many amazing memories from my time in the sport and it is special to be recognised in this way. It is a massive honour to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and it would not be possible without the many team-mates I have had over the years.
“I am very touched by the award and I feel honoured to be listed alongside some of the most famous names in this sport in the UK.”
Hall of Fame committee member, Stewart Roberts, said: “Frankly, this is an impossible task but here’s how we go about it. We work off a list of about 40 possible candidates which we have compiled from our knowledge of the game.
“I reckon the combined experience of the five committee members must exceed 200 years. The list, which goes back to the 1920s, is composed of players, officials, organisers, journalists and others who we consider to have given ‘outstanding service to British ice hockey’. This is the only criterion by which we judge any candidate.
“The list is updated annually to take account of any players or officials who have recently retired. Our rule on players and officials is that they must have ceased playing or officiating for at least one season before they are eligible.
“We also have the list of existing members of the Hall to guide us. If any fans are interested in this, by the way, it is currently posted on the website www.ihjuk.co.uk/halloffame.
“Each year I ask the committee members which three candidates they think are worthy of inducting into the Hall. Then I tally their votes and with any luck we’ve agreed on a couple. If not, we arrange to meet, either physically or over the internet, to make our final decision. This year both nominees received sufficient votes from the committee to make any discussion unnecessary.
“We think it’s a great way of recognising people’s accomplishments as well as bringing the sport some extra publicity.”
The committee will make further additions to the Hall in a year’s time.
Scottish international goaltender, Charles Huddlestone, was renowned as the ‘pied piper’ of ice hockey in the late 1950s and early 1960s, leading a nomadic band of Scottish players to entertain the fans in England. In this dark era for the sport, his tireless work helped to keep the game alive on both sides of the border.
The Glasgow-based Huddlestone, better known as Charlie or Chuck, regularly took his men to play at Brighton, Southampton, Whitley Bay, Durham, Blackpool and Altrincham, which were the only ice hockey rinks in England in those days. Charlie doubled as coach driver, bundling them all into in his own minibus, and even found time to report the team’s games back to The Bulletin newspaper in Glasgow.
The team, self-selected from a pool of about 30, would turn up one weekend as Glasgow Flyers and another as Ayr Hurricanes, mixing and matching players to make up the teams. This didn’t deter the home fans as it was the man himself who was one of the biggest draws. His lively antics in the nets led to one reporter describing him admiringly as ‘the acrobatic Charlie Huddlestone’.
Every year he also took a select side on a week-long continental tour, playing against clubs in the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and elsewhere.
One of the group, Hall of Famer Marsh Key, was also an admirer of Huddlestone and he recalled that it was not all fun and games, saying: “I remember an argument with Charlie about our wages that got a bit heated. It was in the dressing room at Wembley’s hallowed Empire Pool and Sports Arena. Bill Crawford lifted him by the throat and shouted ‘I want my money.’ Charlie coolly replied ‘Bill, I have no money – you’ll just have to hit me’.”
He represented Scotland three times between 1947 and 1962. In his first Home International at Falkirk, the Scots lost 4-2 to England. Fourteen years later he backstopped them to an 8-6 win at Southampton, only to lose 7-3 next day along the coast in Brighton.
Charlie Huddlestone was born into a Jewish family in Bellwood Street, Glasgow on 17th November 1924, the eldest son of a boot and shoelace merchant, and played junior hockey at the local Crossmyloof rink in the late 1930s. He made his senior debut as a left-catching goalie with the newly-formed Paisley Pirates as a 15-year-old in October 1940.
For the decade after World War Two he was a loyal member of Glasgow Mohawks, which played out of Crossmyloof. When the rink’s directors decided in 1957 to cease promoting the sport (along with most other arenas in Scotland), he realised the only way to get regular games was to take the road south. He kept the show on the road until he hung up his skates in 1965, aged 40.
He ran a guest house in the city’s west end for many years and died in 1998, aged 73.
The goalie known by his fans as The Cat enjoyed one of the longest and most consistently successful careers of any British netminder.
The Cardiff-born keeper burst onto the scene at the tender age of 14 in 1994 with his home-town side, the Devils, and went on to play for 23 seasons, 12 of them at the top level.
Along the way, he collected two league trophies, two playoff titles and a Challenge Cup. His agility in the nets earned him six Best British Netminder awards, places on three All-Star first teams – and one second team – and a Player of the Year honour.
While the major part of his British career (ten seasons) was spent in Cardiff, he also strapped on his pads with Manchester Storm and Belfast Giants, and in the second tier with Guildford Flames, Bracknell Bees, Basingstoke Bison and latterly three terms with Swindon Wildcats. He took his talents overseas for three years – in the USA, Italy and France where he was numbered among the French league’s All-Stars.
The highlight of his British league career, he recalled, was winning the inaugural Superleague season with the Devils in 1996-97 when the league voted him their Player of the Year. “That was amazing,” he said. “I was only 17 and I was playing with all those imports.”
His ambition was to compete on the world’s greatest ice hockey stage, the NHL, and he took a big step towards this in the summer of 1997 when he was the highest goalie drafted by the Canadian (junior) Hockey League. He signed a three-year contract with Detroit (Plymouth) Whalers but competition for the goalie spot was crowded and he ended that season on their farm team.
Internationally, he was capped 82 times for Great Britain in 13 World Championship tournaments and seven Olympic Qualifiers – all are records for a GB goalie) – compiling an overall 2.53 goals against average. When coach Peter Woods gave him his World Championship debut in 1996 with a 4-2 win over Belarus at the age of 16, he was the youngest goalie ever to play in Britain’s colours.
Only a few months earlier, he had made a splash in the Under-20 World Championship, gaining man-of-the-match honours in three of GB’s four games.
Lyle was younger still when he was picked by his coach John Lawless to start for the Devils in a Continental Cup quarter-final match in 1994 at the ridiculously early age of 14. The gamble paid off as he backstopped the Devils to a 6-2 win over the heavily favoured Ukrainian champs Sokol Kiev and the club went on to qualify for the cup semis. “I don’t remember being particularly impressed with this,” he said. “I was so young I suppose I thought it was normal.”
Stevie Lyle retired at the end of the 2016-17 season after three years with the Wildcats where he also coached some games with the English Premier League side.
The Hall of Fame committee
Andy French, general secretary of Ice Hockey UK; David Gordon, a sports historian and author of a book on Scottish ice hockey; Jim Graves, a former netminder and the proprietor of Rockies Sports Bar in Belfast, home of the UK’s largest exhibition of ice hockey memorabilia; Martin Harris, ex-referee and the foremost historian of British ice hockey; and Stewart Roberts, the former editor of The Ice Hockey Annual.
Stevie Lyle photo credit: Ian Offers.