Vic Batchelder was the editor and publisher of the fortnightly magazine Ice Hockey News Review for 18 years. It was the sport’s longest running journal since Ice Hockey World over 20 years earlier, with sales running into several thousands in the 1980s and 1990s.
A life-long football fan, Vic was a season-ticket holder with Wolves and a linesman in the Football Combination. After watching Nottingham Panthers when the team was revived in 1980, however, ice hockey became his new passion and he served briefly as Panthers’ secretary and then as assistant secretary of the Inter-City League.
When Stewart Roberts’s Ice Hockey Newsletter ceased publication in May 1980 it left the fans with no regular news source and Vic decided to fill the gap himself. His first Ice Hockey News Review appeared in September 1981, printed by the Prontaprint shop opposite Streatham ice rink.
The first issue comprised a single A4 sheet, photo-reduced and folded to produce four A5 pages. As demand increased, he found a proper printing firm and in May 1984 issue no. 40 – a special for the Heineken British Championships at Wembley Arena – was a 20-page tabloid. During the 1984-85 season, it was transformed into an A4 magazine with more pages added and the introduction of colour.
Vic’s timing couldn’t have been better as the sport grew rapidly throughout the pre-internet 1980s and the magazine grew with it. With the support of his devoted wife ‘Von’ (Yvonne) and son Alan, a hockey referee, he set up offices in the Nottingham suburb of Stapleford and worked – perhaps over-worked – tirelessly, building the magazine’s circulation to nearly 6,000 copies a fortnight.
As well as comprehensive coverage of the British game, with articles on junior hockey and the game’s history, the varied content included a letters page and sections on the NHL and Europe. But the beating heart of the News Review was Batchelder’s pungent views, especially on the governing body and his dislike of foreign imports and professionalism. His page three editorials were compulsory reading. Though he constantly prophesied the end of ice hockey as we know it, he always signed off with ‘Happy hockey days, folks’.
A big fan of the Great Britain team, he overcame another of his dislikes, being too far from his home in Chaddesden, Derby, to report from many European towns in the 1990s on GB’s games in the World Championships.
His other great contribution to the sport was his instigation of the Young (under-21) British Player of the Year award. He approached the London consulate of the Government of Alberta and persuaded them to back the award by putting up the unique prize of an all-expenses paid trip, via sponsor Air Canada, to Calgary Flames’ NHL training camp. For nine years from 1985-86 to 1993-94 a string of talented teenagers received this honour, including Hall of Famers Tony Hand and Ian Cooper.
Vic was a self-taught writer – his earlier careers were as a police dog handler and agent for a finance company – and his magazine would definitely have benefited from a good sub-editor. But his news sense and insistence on accuracy made his work respected in the highest circles.
He reported regularly for the Guardian from the late 1980s, giving the newspaper a reputation among ice hockey fans as the best national daily. On his passing, the Guardian ran two obituaries of him, a rare tribute for a freelance writing about a minority sport.
By September 1999, his tenure as editor of Ice Hockey News Review had exceeded that of Ice Hockey World’s Bob Giddens. He was only forced to give up when he was diagnosed with cancer, and he sold the magazine to his printers, Pinegen in Croydon. They changed it to the weekly Ice Hockey News to which he contributed for the rest of his life, which sadly ended prematurely at the age of 61.
In their tribute after his death, in 2003 the sport’s journalists created the Vic Batchelder Memorial Award which was, appropriately, awarded annually to the game’s Best Young British Player.
Victor Batchelder was born in Ruislip, Middlesex on 27 August 1940 and died on 11 October 2001. He was survived by Alan, his other children Angie and Tony, and Yvonne who died in 2006. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.