Scotsman Willie Clark was an outstanding goalminder for Murrayfield Racers and Great Britain in the 1960s and 1970s and was later involved in the management of Scottish ice hockey.
Virtually a one-club man, the popular keeper’s career began a couple of years after the 3,800-seat Murrayfield rink opened in 1952 when he took up skating while working as a steward. The stewards formed their own hockey team and Clark, after starting on defence, went between the pipes and stayed there one night when the regular netminder failed to appear.
He soon became the regular back-up for the Royals and, after a brief spell with the Glasgow Flyers, established himself as Murrayfield’s first choice keeper. In a memorable season, 1961-62, he back-stopped them to victory in four home tournament finals – in Brighton, Durham, Southampton and Whitley Bay.
Clark’s talents, which had been developed by Edinburgh’s coach Johnny Carlyle, were soon recognised nationally. He appeared regularly for Scotland against England and was capped by Great Britain in all of the five World Championships they entered between 1961 and 1971.
The formation of the Northern League in 1966 heralded perhaps the finest era of ice hockey in the Edinburgh suburb. Now known as the Racers and with Willie in goal, between 1966 and 1975 they won the Icy Smith Cup – the national club championship – five times, the league and playoffs four times as well as three Autumn Cups. This remarkable run included an unprecedented three straight Grand Slams in 1969-70, 1970-71 and 1971-72. Clark himself was voted onto five All-Star ‘A’ sextets (four consecutively in 1969-73) and two ‘B’ squads.
After his final playing season in 1975-76, he took over the team manager’s role for the next decade while also taking charge of the Scottish national team from 1976 to 1994. During the 1980s he was responsible for senior development on the ruling Scottish Ice Hockey Association. This in turn led to him representing the organisation at British Ice Hockey Association council meetings where his contributions were valued highly enough to earn him ‘personal membership’, the inner sanctum of the ruling body.
A glazier by trade, Willie Clark was projects manager at the Murrayfield rink where he was able to maintain his connections with the sport. After he retired on his 65th birthday, he ran a cattery from his home at Newbridge on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
William McLean Clark was born in Edinburgh on 24 May 1931. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.