1950's Summary - Boom & Bust
Hockey in the UK has always had its ''boom and bust'' years. The 1950s saw the sport all but collapse as leagues folded and teams disappeared. Fife Flyers weren't immune to the chill wind which blew through the sport. Costs were rising, import numbers were increasing and more and more rinks were giving over valuable ice time to the more profitable ice shows.
The first sign of trouble came in 1952 when Flyers almost went out of existence.
That summer rink shareholders were asked to vote whether to continue with the team and it took an extraordinary AGM to secure Flyers' future .. but only after much debate which culminated in several resignations. The issue came to a head when the rink directors voted to BACK the team during the slump, arguing that the ''boom and bust'' rollercoaster was ''part of a cycle that affects all sports.'' They pointed out hockey had carried the arena since its opening in 1938 until 1947 when attendances started to decline and were confident of a revival in fortunes. They claimed there had been ''an increase in revenue from ice hockey'' that year -- a claim that was to spark the row whih almost led to the club folding.
Two directors, Archibald Dryburgh and Frank Hargreaves, went public with the facts which showed the opposite was true. They revealed gate receipts which topped £16,390 in 1947/48 had dropped to £15,000 in 1948/49 and £12,000 the following season ... and bottomed out at just £6,075 in 1950/51. They called for the chairman's resignation for ''failing to suspend a department which was showing a distinct financial loss and had been doing so for some time.'' In a statement to the Fife Free Press they added: ''We strongly advise the board to give up all participation in ice hockey as, by continuing, the ice rink company was most assuredly heading for financial disaster.''
In July the board withdrew its financial claims but in doing so ''emphatically'' pointed out it did not intend to mislead anyone. The matter finally went to the EGM on July 5 in the rink's Club Lounge with an 11.00 a.m. start. The Saturday morning gathering lasted two hours, and the motion to continue ice hockey gained the necessary three-quarters support of the shareholders.
Fife lifted the Airlie Trophy in 1953 but they were clearly struggling. In January of that year the ''Kirkcaldy Times'' newspaper wrote: ''There is a regrettable lack of life about ice hockey these days. It wears a jaded look and the spectators cannot warm up the same enthusiasm which is a great pity for ice hockey is a game which could attract and maintain attention.''
That month saw a plan hatched to share gate receipts across teams in a bid to ease the financial load. Takings of more than £300 were to be split, with the exception of Murrayfield who had 12 imports and only paid out of their revenue topped £325.
But by March 1953 it was, in the words of the Times ''zero hour'' for Flyers. Rink directors waited on news of another plan to replace the 50/50 split with contributions into a general pot which would then be used to subsidise the weaker teams. Flyers, ironically were one such club ...
The SIHA went into discussions with W.B. George, president of the Canadian Amateur IHA and zero hour was put on hold. George did hit the nail on the head as he pinpointed local talent as the way forward. Flyers made their move and promptly cut their import quota to six and the crisis was temporarily weathered.
The game staggered on to 1955 when, after a summer of doubt and debate over the composition of the league, Dunfermline Vikings folded and English sides started to contract. The English IHA rejected the SIHA proposal to pay into a pot to prop up the weakest links, and the confusion continued. Eventually time was called in May 1955. The professional set-up in Scotland was effectively abandoned as only four teams -- Falkirk, Ayr, Perth and Kirkcaldy -- indicated a desire to soldier on. Dundee showed no interest and Paisley ''sat on the fence.'' The idea of an amateur league dwindled almost as quickly as it was raised, leaving hockey fans in Fife with no regular action for the remainder of the decade.
Still, hockey signed off in style in Kirkcaldy.
On April 28, 1955 the rink hosted a challenge match between East and West of Canada Selects. There were Flyers on both benches and they were joined by imports from across the league who entertained the biggest crowd of the season. The East won 8-5.
The ice pad was turned over to touring big bands -- stars of the calibre of Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth were visitors -- and there were sporadic games which occasionally mustered interest among locals, but the sport remained dormant until the 1960s.
In May 1958 Kirkcaldy Town Council discussed the purchase of the arena. The planning sub-committee studied the idea of turning it into a swimming pool, but the proposal didn't enjoy universal support. The idea of building a pool next to the rink also fell on stony ground.