Stewart Roberts was the editor and later publisher of the sport’s yearbook, The Ice Hockey Annual, in five decades, from 1976 to 2016, and was also a long-time administrator of the game.
A childhood roller hockey player on the sea-front near his home, Stewart has been a devoted fan of the ice game since watching the final seasons of his local team, Brighton Tigers, in the 1960s. When their home rink, the Sports Stadium, closed he became secretary/manager of the amateur Sussex Senators, which included several of the Tigers.
As the Senators’ representative, he helped to put together the Southern League in season 1970-71, compiled their fixtures, and in the early 1980s was a prime mover when its successor, the Inter-City League, secured the sport’s first substantial sponsorship with brewer Ben Truman.
His monthly magazine, The Ice Hockey Newsletter, began in 1975 and ran for five years. Typed on a manual typewriter, it was printed on a hand-cranked duplicator and distributed by a friend. In the summer of 1976, he produced a foolscap-size publication, The Ice Hockey Newsletter Annual, by much the same method as the monthly, covering the previous season in statistics, stories and photos.
Finding an annual cycle more manageable than a monthly one, he kept the latter publication going for 41 editions with the invaluable assistance of various printing firms, innumerable generous advertisers and increasingly sophisticated technology.
After the first edition, it was produced in an A5 format under the simpler title The Ice Hockey Annual or, as its devoted readers quickly dubbed it, ‘the bible’. At the height of the Heineken League era, sales approached 2,000 a year and the London specialist bookshop Sportspages consistently listed it among its best-selling books at Christmas.
During the sport’s boom in the 1980s, Roberts added to his portfolio of voluntary tasks as a founder in 1981 of the English Ice Hockey Association, the first secretary of the British Ice Hockey Writers Association in 1984-85 (and again briefly in the 2000s), and assisted with the running of the British League’s third tier of clubs.
Around this time, he also began contributing news and match reports (including the World Championships from 1989) for the Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph, and acted for three years as the governing body’s public relations officer.
With a benevolent employer, he was able to hold down his day job in Brighton as an insurance underwriter until he took early retirement in 1995.
In the same year, a charitable organisation, the Ice Hockey Players Benevolent Fund, was created to help players and officials in financial difficulties and he became one of its first trustees.
Stewart Roberts was born on 20 January 1945 in Worthing, Sussex, a few miles west of Brighton. In 2013, he received an award from Ice Hockey UK for services to the sport, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame.