Gordon Wade was the sport’s senior league statistician for over 20 years from the revival of the British League in 1982-83, through the Heineken League era, until the collapse of the Superleague in 2002-03. He also served ice hockey in several other capacities.
When the Whitbread Brewery Co, under the brand name of Heineken, began their sponsorship of the British League in 1983, Gordon was asked to join the media team of the Wight Company, the sponsor’s agent and produce the Heineken Hotline to help publicise the game.
The system required the clubs to phone their match details to Gordon and his wife Lynda immediately after the final whistle. He input this into British Telecom’s Prestel computer, the interactive videotex system – similar to the BBC’s Ceefax – that was state-of-the-art then.
In this way, sports journalists on national and regional newspapers received news, match reports and stats in time for the morning papers.
The information was also compiled by the Wight Company into a print-out which was circulated widely for insertion in the clubs’ match-night programmes and numerous media outlets. This process went on for eight months each year, throughout the 10 years of the sponsorship, with Gordon often working into the wee hours of the morning.
The encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport which he thus acquired was turned to good use when games were televised. He fed statistics and information about the teams and players to the presenters and commentators on ITV and BBC, and by the time Sky Sports and Eurosport began to cover the Superleague, he had added on-screen graphics to his service.
His conscientious way of working persuaded Sky Sports to hire him as part of their broadcasting team when they began their weekly schedule of live transmissions of league games in season 1995-96.
His visuals were also on our TVs when Sky covered the NHL and was the first British TV channel to screen European Cup matches.
Wade’s interest in the game began when his family moved from Birmingham to Southampton in 1958 and his father took him to watch Southampton Vikings. He never missed a game from then until the sport folded there in 1963.
When the team reformed in 1976, he became chairman of the Supporters Club. In 1978, he was elected to the Inter-City League’s management committee and was their treasurer when the league wound up in 1982.
Gordon served briefly on the governing British Ice Hockey Association when his proposal for a national British League, with an interlocking schedule, was adopted for the 1982-83 season, thus tidying up the previously messy system of regional leagues.
His statistics regularly appeared in Stewart Roberts’ monthly Ice Hockey Newsletter from 1977 and later in The Ice Hockey Annual. His association with Stewart and the Annual lasted over 25 years, with his statistics forming the backbone of the yearbook.
In 1980, his column ‘Blue Lines’, a compilation of news, facts and stats, began to appear in the Vikings’ matchnight programme and a year later he worked closely with Vic Batchelder on a new league magazine. ‘Blue Lines’ was for many years a feature of the publication, the fortnightly Ice Hockey News Review.
Much of his knowledge also went into the Heineken League’s Facts and Figures Yearbook, which he compiled and edited for six years from 1986 until the end of the sponsorship in 1993.
Gordon Wade was born in Northfield, Birmingham on 25 August 1945 and was employed by BT for 30 years until 1995. He credits Lynda’s support for enabling him to follow his sporting passion so closely for so long.
In 1985, he was the first person to be made an Hon Life Member of the British Ice Hockey Writers Association (later Ice Hockey Journalists UK) for his invaluable information service.
Heineken presented him with an award for ‘Services to Everyone’ in January 1987 and he was inducted into the 2020 Hall of Fame.