Canadian Robert Giddens was a tireless worker and evangelist for ice hockey in Great Britain. He created two memorable institutions: Ice Hockey World, the first weekly newspaper anywhere devoted to the sport, which first appeared in 1935; and in 1948 he published the first list of inductees to Britain’s own ice hockey Hall of Fame. He also introduced the Canadian idea of All-Star teams.
While the Hall of Fame is still going strong under the auspices of Ice Hockey UK, the newspaper, which was produced to inform the fans of the first professional league in this country, ceased publication when the London-based circuit lost the second of its three vast arenas in 1958. In its heyday, however, the World’s circulation rose from 8,000 in 1938 to a staggering 35,000, sold mostly in the 10,000-capacity arenas at Wembley, Harringay and Earl’s Court. As the sport expanded after World War Two a special Scottish edition was published.
With the later assistance of journalist Phil Drackett, photographer Bill Smith and a small team of reporters, Giddens was responsible for over 500 editions of the World as well as nine Ice Hockey World Annuals from 1947 to 1955. He also found time in 1950 to write Ice Hockey: The International Game, which was published in the Foyles’ Handbooks series.
An outstanding athlete in baseball as well as hockey, Bob was the first Canadian to captain the Crimson, the hockey team of Harvard University. After graduating in 1931, he forsook an opportunity to play in the NHL and decided instead on a career in journalism, taking a job on the Ottawa Journal’s sports desk.
But the lure of hockey was too strong and he came to Europe in 1933 and signed for Stade Francais in Paris. The following year he crossed the Channel to become player-coach at Streatham, building a championship team.
With Streatham on the verge of entering the new English National League in 1935, Bob was lured away by his fellow Canadian Freddie Summerhayes to take the same position with Kensington Corinthians at Summerhayes’s Empress Hall in Earl’s Court. But he only played a handful of games after spotting a gap in the market for a newspaper to cover the game, and grabbed the chance to follow his other love, journalism.
Renée Francis Galbraith Giddens was born in Ottawa, Ontario on 15 March 1906. His father was private secretary to the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King. He died on 17 October 1963 at his home in the Surrey hamlet of Farley Green near Guildford after a long battle with lung cancer. His wife and two young sons survived him.
He was one of the game’s first personalities to be inducted into ‘his’ Hall of Fame when it was revived in 1986 by the British Ice Hockey Writers’ Association.