When he retired at the end of the 2018-19 season, Scots forward Colin Shields was Great Britain’s highest goalscorer of the modern era and the all-time leading points scorer in the Elite League.
Moreover, he was only the second British player – after his legendary fellow countryman Tony Hand – to be drafted by the NHL, the world’s top ice hockey league.
The six-footer with a right-hand shot won two gold medals with GB as they were promoted in consecutive years, 2017 and 2018. In 17 World Championships – including one in the elite group – and four Olympic Qualifying competitions between 2001 and 2019, Shields scored 42 goals in 95 appearances for GB. His 81 points left him as runner-up to Hand.
In 2017, he was named the Best Forward in Division 1B of the championships when his two goals in the Odyssey Arena took him past Hand on GB’s all-time chart, leaving him only two behind Gerry Davey who set the record in 1948. He was also capped for Britain’s under-20s three times in 1997, 1998 and 2000.
Shields spent most of his glittering 14 campaigns in British club hockey with Belfast Giants in the Elite League, beginning in 2005-06. When he retired after 11 winters in Northern Ireland, he was the Giants’ all-time leader in games (611), goals (245), assists (390) and points (635). He played a key part in the Giants’ successes, winning three Elite League titles, three playoff Championships and two Challenge Cups.
The league’s top British goal scorer five times, he set the league’s all-time points scoring record on 27 January 2019 in a game against the Milton Keynes Lightning, surpassing David Clarke’s mark of 731 points.
His finest season came in 2009-10 when he was awarded the Player of the Year title by the league and the journalists after heading the points scoring chart with 87 (34 goals) in 56 games. The media also voted him the Best British Forward and elevated him to their All-Star ‘A’ team.
Colin was on skates from a very early age as he comes from a hockey and skating family: his father Martin played for GB and Glasgow Dynamos, his mother Margaret was a Scottish figure skating champion, and GB netminder Stephen Murphy is a cousin.
His talent was obvious by the time he was 14 and the precocious youngster knew just what his ambition was – to play in the NHL. “You have to go early, he told Ice Hockey News Review. “You can’t wait until you’re 16 or 17.”
Though he turned out a few times for the senior Paisley Pirates in a suburb of his native Glasgow, most of his teens were spent in North America on a variety of junior teams where he could combine playing with schooling.
In 1998, aged 18, he stepped up to the North American Hockey League, a respected developmental circuit, and played two seasons for Cleveland (Ohio) Junior Barons, scoring 155 points (76 goals) in 110 games.
This brought him to the attention of NHL scouts and in 2000 he was drafted in the sixth round by Philadelphia Flyers. Believing college hockey would suit his game better, he accepted a hockey scholarship with the University of Maine Black Bears, playing four seasons and finishing as their top scorer in his last term, 2003-04.
A year later he turned pro in the ECHL with San Diego Gulls, Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies and Greenville Grrrowl. He returned to the UK the next winter, lacing up with the Giants and initially played alongside former NHL star Theo Fleury.
After a further year in the North American minors with Fresno Falcons and Idaho Steelheads, he was back on this side of the Atlantic in 2007-08, top scoring on Newcastle Vipers. This led to a contract with the Giants, Shields serving as their captain in 2010-11.
Apart from spending 2011-12 in the French Alps with Morzine-Avoriaz and the following one with Sheffield Steelers, he returned to the line-up in Belfast where he became one of the Giants’ most popular and talented players.
Colin Shields was born in East Kilbride, a suburb of Glasgow, on 27 January 1980 and was inducted into the 2020 Hall of Fame.