Bob Wilkinson, a popular figure in UK ice hockey for more than 35 years, has passed away at the age of 74.
His dedication to the sport he loved so much was remarkable, in particular his contribution to junior ice hockey.
Bob’s love of the sport began in Durham in 1982 after he retired from the army following 23 years’ of service.
After taking charge of Durham juniors, followed by the under-19 team, he went onto become England U16s manager in 1984.
Two years later, he was asked by the then British Ice Hockey Association to form the first Great Britain Under-16 team. In 1987, Bob also helped form the first Conference tournament.
By now chairman of EIHA Junior League Management Committee, Bob was appointed as a director of the EIHA in 2001 and continued running their junior section, overseeing massive growth within junior ice hockey and the expansion of age groups across the EIHA structure.
He went on to be appointed as director for the England national teams.
In 2002, he was appointed to the IHUK board and had the responsibility of overseeing Great Britain U20s, GB U18s and Great Britain Women.
During his time in charge of these programmes, he was part of four gold-medal success, four silver and four bronze.
He also served as chairman of Ice Hockey UK between 2005 and 2008 and was made an honorary member of IHUK in March of last year – the first person to receive such an accolade.
Bob continued to serve on the EIHA board as his dedication to the sport never relented.
IHUK chairman, Richard Grieveson, said: “Everyone is saddened by the news of Bob’s passing.
“He was a very special man and his contribution to UK ice hockey was remarkable.
“He worked tirelessly with IHUK and the EIHA and his dedication to the sport was unrelenting.
“On behalf of Ice Hockey UK, I would like to send my condolences to his wife Val and all the family.”
EIHA chairman, Ken Taggart, said: “It’s a very sad day. Bob devoted 35 years of his life to the sport and that knowledge and experience cannot easily be replaced.
“It can be said, with certainty, that Bob will not only be missed by his immediate family of Val, Yvonne, Robert and their families, but also his adopted ice hockey family of male and female hockey players that saw him as the grandfather of their sport – always there to pick them up when they were down.
“Bob has worked tirelessly for the benefit of youth players, going above and beyond the call of duty.
“There will be much that is written over the next few weeks that highlights Bob’s commitment to the Great Britain teams, England teams and youth hockey but if we are looking for a legacy, I believe it was his commitment to introduce the Conference tournament in 1987.
“The first Conference tournament had 12 teams and I am sure back then, little did he know that it would become a tournament that would be the envy of many countries around the world, now with 20 teams of the very best players from all over Great Britain coming together with a dream of making a national team.
“Bob, this is your legacy – thank you.”