Scotsman Les Lovell played and coached in Scotland and England for over 20 years. One of the finest centremen of his era, he was capped in five World Championships and won numerous club titles.
Lovell’s father – also Les – was a Canadian who came to play in Scotland before World War Two, turning out for teams in Perth and Kirkcaldy where Les junior was born. But when he was only ten, Les and his family moved to Edinburgh, and thus he began his career with Edinburgh Royals rather than Kirkcaldy’s Fife Flyers.
This eventually turned out to be a shrewd move as one of the country’s top coaches, Johnny Carlyle, took young Les under his wing in Edinburgh. When the Royals beat Brighton Tigers in a major tournament on the south coast in 1961 – and the Scottish team then collapsed – Tigers’ manager Benny Lee snapped up Carlyle, Lovell and two other Royals.
The Tigers dominated the sport for the next four seasons with Les winning the hearts of the Brighton faithful, who dubbed him the Ghost. Rarely taking a penalty, the tall, slim Scot would glide past defenders as though invisible. His pale complexion added to the ghostly image.
In four years, he was never out of the team’s top half-dozen points scorers while spending only 24 minutes in the sin-bin. In 125 games with the Tigers, he scored 223 points, including 114 goals, only returning home to Scotland on the Tigers’ demise in 1965. He was then a key player with Fife Flyers until 1978, apart from two encore seasons with Edinburgh.
The 1970-71 campaign was a career year for Lovell – he captained the Flyers, topped the league’s scorers, was voted the league’s Player of the Year and was a shoo-in for a berth on the All-Star ‘A’ team. He repeated as top scorer in 1973-74 and as an All-Star A team member in 1975-76 and 1976-77. During his time with Fife, they won the Autumn Cup four times, the league and Icy Smith Cup twice, and the Spring Cup play-offs.
He ended his domestic career in fourth place on the all-time scoring list in the old Northern Ice Hockey Association (1966-82) with 924 points (424 goals) in 299 games.
A two-year assignment as player-coach of Aviemore Blackhawks followed. After hanging up his skates he spent two seasons behind the bench of Edinburgh’s second team, the Raiders.
Selected for Scotland three times – the first at the age of 18 – Les went on to gain 30 caps for Great Britain at the World Championships, captaining the squad in 1977. In all, he scored 17 points (nine goals) for his country. In three of the world tournaments, he lined up alongside his younger brother Lawrie, who also became a member of the Hall.
Leslie Henry Thomas Lovell was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife on 11 January 1942 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.