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.
He said: “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’ and 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.