Red Stapleford played and coached at Streatham during the ‘golden era’ of the sport before and after World War Two and recruited many of his fellow Canadians for the English National League.
One of five Canadians on the Streatham team in his first season, 1934-35, the defenceman/left winger helped the south London club to top the league ahead of the two new Wembley sides.
Streatham also collected the International Tournament title, beating teams from Milan, Munich and Paris. For this, he wrote home, “We had some marvellous trips, and I was paid expenses as well as my weekly wage.” His wage was £6, more than double the average of the time.
When Streatham finished one point out of first place the following winter, the quick thinking, two-way player was voted onto the All-Star ‘A’ team. He stayed four terms with Streatham and one with Wembley Lions, eventually joining a select band of players in the 100 Goal Club with 102 and 150 points.
His war-time service in the Canadian infantry brought honour and agony. While rising to the rank of major, he was wounded in the knee, thigh and shoulder at the battle of the Falaise Gap in France.
Two years after the fighting he had recovered sufficiently to return to Streatham in 1946-47 as player/coach and missed only one outing in the 36-game league schedule. Over his eight seasons, he took the team up the ENL rankings from fifth in his first season to league champs in 1949-50 and again in 1952-53, and was selected for All-Star honours four more times, three on the ‘A’ squad.
Indeed, his recruitment and mentoring skills made Streatham the most consistently successful ENL club in the immediate post-war era, winning no fewer than seven major trophies in his eight seasons. In addition to two league titles, they captured the Autumn Cup and the National Tournament twice as well as the London Cup.
When Streatham management decided against joining the expanded British National League in 1954, Red went back to the continent to coach where he had enjoyed playing in the 1930s. On his return to London, he was appointed High Commissioner for the Government of Ontario.
A great lover of the theatre, he married the daughter of one of the Crazy Gang, a popular comedy act of the time. Their daughter, Sally-Anne Stapleford OBE, was an Olympic figure skater and five times British figure skating champion.
Richard Harvey Stapleford was born on 25 February 1912 in Watford, Ontario, Canada and died on 14 February 1983 in Wandsworth, London, England. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.