Known as ‘the Rimouski Rocket’ after his birthplace in Quebec, Les Anning was renowned in Britain as the fastest skater and most consistent scorer of his era. A key member of three of the most memorable attacking trios of the 1950s, he scored over 500 goals.
Recruited from Canada in 1946 by Wembley’s coach Lou Bates, he led the Monarchs’ scoring with 86 points in his first season as right-winger on the ‘Kid Line’ with Mauno Kauppi and George Steele.
After spending 1947-48 back in Canada, he returned for a second term with the Monarchs, scoring 38 points (21 goals) in their best campaign since their formation in 1936-37, winning the Autumn Cup and International Tournament.
Three seasons (1950-53) in the orange and black colours of Earls Court Rangers followed. Twice voted onto the league’s All-Star ‘A’ team, he was part of a second great forward line – the high scoring and crowd pleasing ‘BAR line’ with Kenny Booth at centre and Cliff Ryan.
For the 1954-55 season Anning moved up to Scotland and signed for Ayr Raiders in the first British National League (BNL). Four of his next five seasons were then spent back in the capital with Wembley Lions, where he formed the productive ‘BSA line’ with Booth, his old Earls Court line-mate, and future Hall of Famer Les Strongman on the left flank. They and the Lions won the BNL title in 1956-57 and the Autumn Cup the following season.
Anning got his hands on the Autumn Cup again a year later, this time with Brighton Tigers, scoring 56 goals in 50 games for the seasiders during 1958-59. At the end of the next campaign, the BNL collapsed and he moved to Switzerland to play and coach.
His speed, he explained to reporter Phil Drackett of the Ice Hockey World, was “partly due to my skates being ground pretty well flat, little or no rocker, and playing with a lie three stick, which kept me low to the ice.”
During his 18 seasons here, he played a total of 604 games, scoring 552 goals and 950 points, with a modest 261 penalty minutes.
Although he married a London woman in 1947, he never took British citizenship. Nevertheless, his fondest memory was being part of a team of Canadian pros who played under the title of ‘England’ in the Churchill Cup in the early 1950s. Among their scalps was Canada, the 1952 Winter Olympic gold medallists, in which he scored to help ‘England’ win 6-4 at Wembley in March 1952.
William Patrick Leslie Anning was born on 17 March 1927 in Rimouski, Quebec and died in Barrie, Ontario on 28 January 2008. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.