UK Ice Hockey Hall of Fame
The sport’s original Hall of Fame (1948-55) was created by Canadian British-based journalist and player Bob Giddens, the editor and publisher of the weekly newspaper Ice Hockey World. The Hall of Fame was revived in 1986 under the auspices of the British Ice Hockey Writers Association, which later become Ice Hockey Journalists UK.
The sport’s governing body, Ice Hockey UK, took over the organisation of the Hall in 2018.
Each year, the Hall of Fame selection committee considers candidates for induction. The only criterion is that an individual must have rendered “outstanding service to British ice hockey”.
The goalie known by his fans as The Cat enjoyed one of the longest and most consistently successful careers of any British netminder. The Cardiff-born keeper burst onto the scene at the tender age of 14 in 1994 with his hometown side, the Devils, and went on to play for 23 seasons, 12 of them at the top level.
Along the way, he collected two league trophies, two playoff titles and a Challenge Cup. His agility in the nets earned him six Best British Netminder awards, places on three All-Star first teams – and one second team – and a Player of the Year honour.
While the major part of his British career (10 seasons) was spent in Cardiff, he also strapped on his pads with Manchester Storm and Belfast Giants, and in the second tier with Guildford Flames, Bracknell Bees, Basingstoke Bison and latterly three terms with Swindon Wildcats.
He took his talents overseas for three years – in the USA, Italy and France where he was numbered among the French league’s All-Stars.
The highlight of his British league career, he recalled, was winning the inaugural Superleague season with the Devils in 1996-97 when the league voted him their Player of the Year.
“That was amazing,” he said. “I was only 17 and I was playing with all those imports.”
His ambition was to compete on the world’s greatest ice hockey stage, the NHL, and he took a big step towards this in the summer of 1997 when he was the highest goalie drafted by the Canadian (junior) Hockey League. He signed a three-year contract with Detroit (Plymouth) Whalers but competition for the goalie spot was crowded and he ended that season on their farm team.
Internationally, he was capped 82 times for Great Britain in 13 World Championship tournaments and seven Olympic Qualifiers (all are records for a GB goalie), compiling an overall 2.53 goals against average. When coach Peter Woods gave him his World Championship debut in 1996 with a 4-2 win over Belarus at the age of 16, he was the youngest goalie ever to play in Britain’s colours.
Only a few months earlier, he had made a splash in the U20 World Championship, gaining man of the match honours in three of GB’s four games.
Lyle was younger still when he was picked by his coach John Lawless to start for the Devils in a Continental Cup quarter-final match in 1994 at the ridiculously early age of 14. The gamble paid off as he backstopped the Devils to a 6-2 win over the heavily favoured Ukrainian champs Sokol Kiev and the club went on to qualify for the Cup semis.
“I don’t remember being particularly impressed with this,” he said. “I was so young I suppose I thought it was normal.”
Stevie Lyle retired at the end of the 2016-17 season after three years with the Wildcats where he also coached some games with the English Premier League side.
By Stewart Roberts. Photo credit: Helen Brabon.
Scottish international goaltender Charles Huddlestone was renowned as the pied piper of ice hockey in the late 1950s and early 1960s, leading a nomadic band of Scottish players to entertain the fans in England. In this dark era for the sport, his tireless work helped to keep the game alive on both sides of the border.
The Glasgow-based Huddlestone, better known as Charlie or Chuck, regularly took his men to play at Brighton, Southampton, Whitley Bay, Durham, Blackpool and Altrincham, which were the only ice hockey rinks in England in those days. Charlie doubled as coach driver, bundling them all into in his own minibus, and even found time to report the team’s games back to The Bulletin newspaper in Glasgow.
The team, self-selected from a pool of about 30, would turn up one weekend as Glasgow Flyers and another as Ayr Hurricanes, mixing and matching players to make up the teams. This didn’t deter the home fans as it was the man himself who was one of the biggest draws. His lively antics in the nets led to one reporter describing him admiringly as ‘the acrobatic Charlie Huddlestone’.
Every year he also took a select side on a week-long continental tour, playing against clubs in the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and elsewhere. One of the group, Hall of Famer Marsh Key, was also an admirer of Huddlestone and he recalled that it was not all fun and games.
He said: “I remember an argument with Charlie about our wages that got a bit heated. It was in the dressing room at Wembley’s hallowed Empire Pool and Sports Arena. Bill Crawford lifted him by the throat and shouted ‘I want my money’ and Charlie coolly replied ‘Bill, I have no money – you’ll just have to hit me’.”
He represented Scotland three times between 1947 and 1962. In his first home international at Falkirk, the Scots lost 4-2 to England. Fourteen years later he backstopped them to an 8-6 win at Southampton, only to lose 7-3 next day along the coast in Brighton.
Charlie Huddlestone was born into a Jewish family in Bellwood Street, Glasgow on 17th November 1924, the eldest son of a boot and shoelace merchant, and played junior hockey at the local Crossmyloof rink in the late 1930s. He made his senior debut as a left-catching goalie with the newly-formed Paisley Pirates as a 15-year-old in October 1940.
For the decade after World War Two he was a loyal member of Glasgow Mohawks, which played out of Crossmyloof. When the rink’s directors decided in 1957 to cease promoting the sport – along with most other arenas in Scotland – he realised the only way to get regular games was to take the road south. He kept the show on the road until he hung up his skates in 1965, aged 40.
He ran a guest house in the city’s west end for many years and died in 1998, aged 73.
By David Gordon.
The members of the Selection Committee are Andy French, the general secretary of Ice Hockey UK; David Gordon, a sports historian specialising in ice hockey; Jim Graves, a Canadian/Scottish netminder who now runs his Rockies Sports Bar in Belfast with its impressive display of sports memorabilia; Martin Harris, a former ice hockey referee who has published two books on the history of the sport, including The British Ice Hockey Hall Fame (Tempus Publishing, 2007); and Stewart Roberts, the editor and compiler of The Ice Hockey Annual, the sport’s yearbook for 40 years from 1976 to 2016.