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1930's Summary

1930's Summary

Great Britain's remarkable 1936 Olympic Games gold medal triumph sparked an ice hockey boom across the UK.

Fife Flyers remain the only survivor from that explosion, and they still play out of their original barn and under their original name. 

The Scottish hockey scene in the late 1930s was vastly different to the set-up we have today -- the league included clubs such as Kelvingrove, Glasgow Mustangs, Perth Panthers, Falkirk Lions, Dundee Tigers.

In 1939 Scotland led Europe as far as the sport was concerned and plans were unveiled for up to 20 rinks north of the border. There was serious talk of a ten-team league.

The 1939 Ice Hockey Annual revealed plans for no fewer than three super stadia in Aberdeen. A £60,000 arena was already under construction and was being promoted by Aberdeen Ice Rink Limited. There were also plans to convert a cinema in the city as well as building a 15,000 seat arena in the heart of the city.

Dunfermline, Stirling, Paisley, Inverness, Hamilton, Edinburgh and Ayr all had rink blueprints actively under consideration while in Glasgow there was talk of icing a team out of the Kelvin Hall.

In the end, the outbreak of World War Two spiked the boom, and hockey was forced to contract. Inverness, Aberdeen and Motherwell never got off the ground, Hamilton did get a rink two decades later that was unsuitable for hockey, while Edinburgh's Murrayfield was promptly requisitioned by the Government for the war effort and not handed back until the early 1950s. Paisley's proposed 15,000 seater was scaled down but the sport did endure in the town.

The expansion plans down south were similarly hit. Talk of a 5,000 seat stadium in Leicester -- to be expanded to 9,000 to accommodate boxing matches -- petered out while Manchester, and Birmingham's plans for a £500,000 Wembley-style arena were all re-thought.

Writing in the annual, Bernard Stocks commented: ''Hitler ... He had many crimes to answer for when he tried to put his lust for power into reality. One of them was the stifling of the hockey boom in this country which today could have seen the sport rivalling football and flourishing, where it is now struggling to get a firm hold.''

FLYERS PLAN NEW RINK

Fife Flyers made their public debut on October 1, 1938, but the first mention of hockey can be found tucked away in the columns of the Fife Free Press dated February 2, 1938.

It announced 30,000 ordinary shares at 1d each in a proposed new rink in the town -- 25,000 shares were offered for subscription.

On February 17 plans to build the rink in the Gallatown were presented to, and approved by, Kirkcaldy Dean of Guilds Court. The one-storey building contained seating for 4,500 and would cost £37,000 to construct. To put that figure into context the town's fire station, also opened that year, cost £15,000.

The rink's ground level would consist of an entrance hall, general office, booking office, confectioners and tobacconist, cloakroom with provision for a large restaurant, and a milk bar.

Facilities also included dressing rooms with spray baths, while immediately above the entrance was the boardroom, bandstand and manager's office.

The building was to have a carcas of steel stanchions and a roof span of 145 feet without any supporting pillars except those at the extremities, making it the widest construction of its kind in Scotland at the time.

The plans also had a touch of class -- the restaurant featured Parker-Knoll chairs, curtains designed by Dame Laura Knight, as well as monogrammed cutlery.

Much of the work was carried out by local tradesmen, including plumber James Blyth, while the original sound system came from E. Donaldson of Kirk Wynd. The builder was James Ramsay of Leslie, while joiner D. Mitchell & Sons, also Leslie, worked on the roof.

FLYERS TAKE FLIGHT

AN advert in the Fife Free Press of August 20, 1938 heralded the arrival of Fife Flyers.

It said: ''Kirkcaldy Ice Rink will present the fastest and most thrilling game of ice hockey throughout the season ... the newly formed team, the Fife Flyers, will include some of the most famous players from the teams of Canada, Switzerland and London.''

Season tickets for the inaugural season cost from 10/- for a ''tip-up seat'' and that included free skating after the game. Match day tickets cost from 1/- for standing to a top price of 3/6.

Rink manager J.C. Rolland signed Canadian born Les Lovell Senior as coach and skipper. An outstanding player of his generation, he came to Fife from spells with Perth Blackhawks, Perth Panthers and Brighton Tigers -- and one of his claims to fame was that he helped to complete building work on the new Kirkcaldy rink. Les' own sons Lawrie and Les, both enjoyed distinguished careers with Fife, while his grandson Lindsay was a Flyer in the 1980s.

The first Flyers' line-up included Len McCartney and Norman McQuade from Wembley Monarchs, brothers Alex and Billy Fullerton from Glasgow Mustangs, Blairgowrie-born Tommy McInroy, plus two from Canadian side North Battlefield Bears -- netminder Chick Kerr, reputed to be the smallest goalie in the game, and Tommy Durling. Jimmy Chappell was signed from crack London outfit Earls Court Rangers, while Jack Chatham came from Chatham Maroons, Ontario. 

The first came was on October 1, 1938 against Dundee Tigers and it was the climax to a day of celebrations. The afternoon opening ceremony attracted a capacity 4,265 crowd which caused a traffic jam in the Gallatown and a two-mile tailback of cars. Guests included shareholders, contractors, members of the RCCC and representatives from Scotland's other ice rinks. Lord Elgin declared the arena open by throwing the first curling stone and after displays from Glasgow Speed Racing Club and world figure skating champion Megan Taylor -- who received a set of golf clubs as a 'thank you! -- it was time for the ''men with sticks'' to hit the ice.

Norman McQaude had the honour of scoring Flyers' first ever goal, taking a pass from Durling and going solo to shoot home from well out, but Dundee were better organised and won 4-1. They were level within minutes through a brilliant Smith solo effort and, after failing to beat Kerr through the second period, went ahead in the 44th minute as Smith struck again. Al Rodgers netted number three and Shannon concluded the scoring for the Taysiders. Despite the reversal, the media hailed the Fife team, citing McQuade and Durling as ''outstanding'' and Lovell as ''strong, resourceful and the originator of most attacks.''

Flyers then went west to play Kelvingrove and drew 2-2 to claim their first point. Game three yielded their first ever victory -- a 4-2 triumph over Perth Panthers. Kelvingrove were then hammered 8-1 in the return match in Fife.

The fledging Flyers were learning fast ...

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