David Longstaff was one of an elite group of highly sought-after British forwards. During a career spanning three decades he played a then-record 101 times for Great Britain and turned out in over 1,000 games for several club sides.
He won numerous club and international honours and played a key role as his teams won four league titles (British League, Superleague, Elite League and English Premier League), three play-off championships and three cup competitions.
Affectionately known as ‘Lobby’, he broke into senior hockey in 1989-90 at the age of 15 with Whitley Warriors, who were based a couple of miles from his home in North Shields. When the highly professional Superleague came along in the mid-1990s, David’s strength and skilful stickhandling enabled him to fit easily into the Sheffield Steelers’ mostly Canadian line-ups. In their Grand Slam-winning 2000-01 season, he was voted Player of the Year and selected to the first All-Star team.
A laid-back character with an inexhaustible fund of amusing anecdotes, he was always a welcome presence in the dressing room. At the peak of his powers, and by then captain of the GB national team, the 6ft, 3in, 209lb right-winger was urged to try his luck overseas.
He spent season 2001-02 with crack Swedish league club, Djurgårdens IF of Stockholm, but after a short stay with HC Sierre of the Swiss B League the following year, he returned home and for the next eight seasons laced up with Newcastle Vipers, who competed in the 5,500-capacity Newcastle Arena, skippering the side in his last three seasons and capturing the Elite League and Play-off titles in 2005-06.
But the sport never took off in the city and he was tempted south for season 2010-11 by Paul Dixon, a friend and former team-mate, who was coaching the Guildford Flames. He captained the English Premier League club for five years, thrilling the fans with his attacking displays and helping them win back-to-back league and cup doubles in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and the play-off championship in 2010-11.
It was as a prodigal son and conquering hero that he returned to his roots for the 2015-16 campaign as player-coach of Whitley Warriors. After five seasons in the National League North 1, at the age of 45, he reluctantly quit playing, but he remains with the team as head coach.
‘Lobby’ was just as influential and charismatic on the Great Britain senior and junior teams. After his selection for the under-16s in 1990 he played on five World Championship junior teams – with the under-18s in 1991 and 1992 and the under-20s in 1992, 1993 (captain) and 1994.
His debut with the senior team came at the age of 19 in 1994, when he was called up by coach Alex Dampier for his newly promoted side in the World Championship A Pool in Italy. The following year in Bratislava, he was GB’s top scorer with six goals in seven games in Pool B.
He went on to captain GB three times and wear the assistant’s ‘A’ four times, scoring 76 points (32 goals) in 16 World Championships and three Olympic Qualifying competitions. When he retired from international play in 2013 after the Olympic pre-Qualifying games in Japan, he had been capped more times than any other player in GB’s long history.
David Longstaff was born on 26 August 1974 in North Shields, Tyne & Wear.