Ian Forbes was a right-wing playmaker, one of the few home-grown Scots on the Canadian-dominated leagues after World War Two. A leading GB international, he was chosen to play in four World Championships.
As soon as the Perth ice rink opened in 1936 on the city’s Dunkeld Road young ‘Eeny’, as he was better known, began skating and playing hockey. His potential had been spotted by the time he was 12, but his progress was interrupted by the outbreak of World War Two and his Army service in 1945-47.
The absence only sharpened his appetite for the game. After a year on Perth’s junior team in 1947-48, he became a regular on the senior Black Hawks until the club folded after season 1954-55. When no club picked up his contract, he was forced to take a year out (he was a spray painter in a Perth motor garage), returning in 1956-57 with Paisley Pirates. He helped them to win the British National League in 1958-59 but the league collapsed 12 months later.
A season with Glasgow Flyers followed and in 1961 Ken Bailey, manager of the new Altrincham Aces, lured him south as player-coach. There he formed a devastating attack trio with his old Perth and GB team-mates Jimmy Spence and Sammy MacDonald and for two seasons running he was voted onto the All-Star ‘A’ team as player and coach.
The ‘Perth Line’ moved back to Scotland en bloc for the 1963-64 campaign and Forbes enjoyed more success as the player-coach of Fife Flyers. The trio spearheaded the Flyers to a number of triumphs, notably the BBC Grandstand Trophy in 1964 which was televised live on a Saturday afternoon. In his first year, Eeny was personally honoured again as a player and a coach on the All-Star ‘A’ team.
After hanging up his skates in 1968 at the age of 41, he made a one-season comeback as coach in 1971-72, taking over from his fellow Hall of Famer, Marsh Key, on the bench of the troubled Dundee Rockets. He persuaded old buddies Spence, MacDonald and Mike Mazur to be his top forward line, showed faith in rookie goalie Mike Ward, and instilled a professional attitude in his men. The Rockets surprised their rivals by finishing runners-up in the Northern League, third in the Autumn Cup and finalists in the Spring Cup play-offs.
During his eleven league seasons with the Panthers and the Pirates, he played 515 games, scoring 369 points (174 goals) and taking 499 penalty minutes. Statistics for his other years are incomplete but it is safe to say he played over 600 official games in all and tallied about the same number of points.
On the international front, Forbes played for Great Britain in 1950 when they were fourth in the World Championships, and again in 1951, 1961 (Pool B silver medallists) and 1962 (Pool A in Colorado Springs, USA). A sharpshooter, he scored 21 goals in 29 games, and took only 28 penalty minutes. He also represented Scotland against England three times, in 1950, 1961 and 1962.
His fellow Hall of Famer and former GB teammate Johnny Carlyle rated Eeny among the best: “The line of Spence, Forbes and MacDonald, at both Altrincham and Kirkcaldy, was the best British forward line I’ve seen. Ian Forbes was The Man.”
John Robert Forbes was born in Perth, Scotland on 30 March 1927 and died there on 13 October 1989. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.