Left-winger Ernie Domenico, a Canadian of Italian extraction, was one of the finest players to compete in Scotland during the post-war professional era. During ten seasons between 1948-49 and 1958-59 he scored 669 points (357 goals) in 360 games in the Scottish (later British) National League.
He assisted Ayr Raiders to back-to-back league titles in 1951-52 and 1952-53, and was later part of Paisley Pirates’ league-winning side in 1958-59. He earned All-Star ‘A’ team honours in each of those seasons.
Ernie was one of seven children born into a mining family in Ontario’s gold-mining region. An early stand-out, he played his junior hockey in the Porcupine Mines league, and in the 1947-48 season his team reached the Eastern Canada play-offs of the prestigious Memorial Cup.
Britain’s national leagues of the day were always on the lookout for young Canadians who fancied playing overseas and Domenico was recruited by Streatham’s Canadian coach Red Stapleford. But he played only four (pointless) games as the Londoners transferred him to the struggling Ayr Raiders. There he quickly fit in, scoring 48 points (22 goals) in 51 outings, and at the end of the season he was offered another contract.
A small player by modern standards at 5ft 7in and 155lbs, he was popular wherever he went. He was held in special affection by the Ayr fans, who saw him at his best when he formed part of the “Spaghetti Line” with fellow Italian-Canadians Andre Girard and Orville Martini. The trio were described in the Ice Hockey World newspaper as “the most feared forward combination in Scotland”.
Ernie settled in the town, marrying an Ayr woman, and stayed seven years with the Raiders, helping them to the league and Autumn Cup double in 1951-52 and the league and play-off titles the following term.
He had also enjoyed success in Europe where the season was shorter and the wages higher. As early as 1950-51 he had played in Milan where he had first met Girard and Martini, and he later played and coached in Switzerland with La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Ayr’s 4,600-capacity arena in Beresford Terrace dropped out of senior hockey in 1955 and by the time he returned from the continent at the end of the 1955-56 season, Paisley Pirates were the only Scottish side left in the shrunken British National League (BNL).
He spent three seasons with the Pirates, his last being one of his best as he racked up over 100 points, scoring 59 goals and 54 assists in 53 games as Paisley took their first and only BNL title against competition from Wembley, Brighton and Nottingham.
Ernest Domenico was born in Timmins, Ontario on 17 April 1928 and died in Sudbury, Ontario on 28 March 2021, aged 92.