Canadian George McNeil was an outstanding coach in the post-war Scottish National League, mentoring several players who went on to become members of the Hall of Fame.
Six foot tall, with ginger hair, he arrived in London for the 1936-37 season, which he spent on defence with Richmond Hawks of the English National League and in four Coronation Cup games for Brighton Tigers. One commentator described him as ‘an artist at body-checking’.
He spent the following year on right-wing with Earls Court Rangers before venturing north to Scotland and skating for two seasons with Dundee Tigers. They won the Scottish National League (SNL) in 1938-39 and he finished in the league’s top points scorers in both years.
After World War Two he re-joined Dundee for two seasons as coach. In his second term, 1947-48, his men won the Play-off championship for the Anderson Trophy and he was voted onto the All-Star ‘A’ team.
Falkirk Lions were attracted by his success and recruited him as coach and manager. He obliged with five Play-off titles in his six campaigns and two runners-up places in the Scottish National League. In 1948-49 he brought the Scottish Autumn Cup to Falkirk. His coaching methods were so highly regarded that he was elected to four consecutive All-Star ‘B’ teams.
His time with the Lions was broken by a year as a senior referee at the request of the Scottish Ice Hockey Association, due to a shortage of qualified officials.
His final campaign as a coach, 1954-55, coincided with the merging of the English and Scottish leagues into the 12-team British National League. McNeil readily accepted the challenge of stronger opposition and was recognised by yet another All-Star ‘B’ team selection.
As well as his coaching successes, George was a good judge of talent, recognising and developing future Hall of Famers Johnny Carlyle, Red Imrie, Joe McIntosh and Bill Sneddon from Falkirk, and Dundonian Marsh Key.
After a spell as manager of the Falkirk rink, he moved to America in 1956 with his Dundee-born wife Eveline.
George Patrick McNeil was born on 26 July 1914 in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, Canada and died on 24 December 1997 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, USA. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1951.