Scotsman Gordon Latto spent virtually his entire two-decade career with Fife Flyers, appeared in four World Championships for Great Britain, and is the only player to be honoured twice by the governing body for his outstanding and sportsmanlike play.
Born in Kirkcaldy, a five-minute walk from the rink, he was learning to skate at the age of five and at eight was being taught hockey by some of the Flyers’ most experienced players. His exceptional talent was obvious by his early teens when he opted to play at centre. He honed his skills in Gothenburg, Sweden where, at the age of 17, he spent the 1975-76 season with the Västra Frölunda under-18s. “Training three hours a day brought my game on a ton,” he said.
His skilful, playmaking style was so striking that he was selected by GB at the end of the year, setting a record as the youngest non-goalie ever to dress for the national side. He appeared in four games in the World Pool C tournament in Gdansk, Poland.
When he returned to Fife, he was named Player of the Year after his 124 points (59 goals) in 38 games were key to their Grand Slam victories in 1976-77. He received the accolade again when Fife retained the league and Icy Smith Cup, and he won the Earl Carlson Trophy as the Northern Association’s top scorer when they took the Autumn Cup in 1978-79. He was named to the All-Star ‘A’ team at centre or right-wing three successive times in 1977-78, 1978-79 and 1979-80.
Flyers’ 1984-85 squad was one of their best. Latto was now captain of a team containing three Canadian imports: Dave Stoyanovich, Danny Brown and Ron Plumb, who doubled as coach. They duly carried off the Heineken British Championship title at Wembley Arena, their first silverware for six seasons.
Three years later they were back at Wembley, this time coached by Kirkcaldy’s own Jack Dryburgh. Skipper Latto’s two assists in the final were not enough this time, however, to prevent their 8-5 defeat by Mike O’Connor’s Durham Wasps.
The Fife crew reached the semi-finals against the eventual champions Cardiff Devils at the 1990 Wembley Weekend, but the following season they were relegated as the increasing professionalism of the sport began to leave them behind. They spent three of Gordon’s last seven seasons in the second tier, topping the Northern Premier League in his final two campaigns. He retired at the end of 1997-98, a few months after his 39th birthday.
In the days when the GB team was predominantly British born and trained, he played 21 games in four World Championships between 1976 and 1989, scoring two goals and two assists, with just ten penalty minutes.
During his 22-year senior club career, he played close to 1,000 games and scored over 1,000 points while his penalty total barely exceeded 500 minutes. A fitness fanatic who hated to lose, his early taste of Swedish hockey left him with a lasting preference for the European style of game.
In recognition of his outstanding career, the British Ice Hockey Association awarded him two medals, an unprecedented honour from the governing body. In 1995 he received the Ernest Ramus Medal for gentlemanly play, and in 1998 in front of 3,200 of the Fife faithful, he received the Ahearne Medal. His number 16 shirt was also retired by his club.
Gordon John Latto was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland on 18 December 1958. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.