1960's Summary - Return of the Good Old Hockey Team
Ice hockey's slump in the mid 1950s saw Fife Flyers fall into a hiatus and, for the best part of seven years, fans were left without their weekly hockey fix.
The team finally came back out of cold storage on October 28, 1962 to participate in the newly launched amateur winter league. The SIHA drew up a fixture list for Flyers, Perth Blackhawks, Glasgow Flyers, Paisley Mohawks, Ayr Ranges, Murrayfield Racers. It was modest in its outlook -- but it gave the players a chance to lace up their skates. Flyers' first squad of the new decade did include some seasoned professionals. The Montreal-born Harold 'Pep' Young, who first iced for the team in 1950, was back on board as player-coach -- Young was a seminal figure in the development of hockey in Fife and is still a familiar figure rinkside on match nights -- and he was joined by Bert Smith, Gerry Hudson, Joe McIntosh and netminder John Pullar. Added to that list was defenceman Vern Greger, one of the most popular players of his time.
Paisley provided the opening night opposition, but before then, Flyers slotted in a pre-season challenge with Ayr Rangers, winning 5-3 in front of 1,600 fans. The game also marked the revival of the ''Mirror of Merit'' the club's traditional player of the year award which continues to this day. Flyers' first official game ended in a 3-3 tie with Young netted the GTG, and it was quickly followed by the first win -- a 10-6 scalping of Perth Blackhawks.
Business commitments forced Young to step down as player-coach in November. Greger took over the dual role and kept Flyers on their winning ways, steering them to an 8-3 win over Durham Wasps.
Cross-border action continued throughout the 60s and fans flocked to see famous teams such as Brighton Tigers as well as many touring clubs, including the Czech and Polish national sides.
The sixties yielded a good number of trophies as well as several personal landmarks which remain in the club's Roll of Honour to this day. Flyers enjoyed spectacular success in the Grandstand Trophy, lifting the prestigious trophy in 1963/64 and again in 1966/67. The Skol Cup was lifted four times in five seasons between 1964 and 1969, while the STV Trophy also found its way to the trophy cabinet in 1964/65 ... the same year the time claimed the Coca Cola Trophy.
Netminder Roy Reid set a benchmark for shut-outs which still stands to this day -- his five blank sheets coming in 1964/65 -- while the goalscoring exploits of Jimmy Spence may never be equalled. A prolific forward, Spence formed part of the famous ''Perth Line'' -- which comprised Fair City side kicks Sam McDonald and the late Ian Forbes -- and he simply tore up the record books. An eight-goal haul in a 1964 game stands as the most goals by a British player. Only two players have come close -- Les Lovell in 1976 and John Haig in 1997 both netted seven.
The decade wasn't a completely smooth ride, however. By 1968 Fife's purple patch was effectively over as players moved on and crowds dipped.
October 5, 1968 marked the club's 30th anniversary and a move from Sunday to Saturday night for home games. The switch was seen as a gamble in some quarters, and it came at a time when the team was struggling badly. Flyers had lost the inspirational Les Lovell to Murrayfield, and seriously looked at pulling out of the NIHA's Northern League.
They started the 1968/69 season with a 9-8 home defeat at the hands of Whitley Warriors -- despite leading 7-4 with just ten minutes to play -- and the losses started to mount; 12-2 at home to an invincible Murrayfield, 13-2 against Paisley. By November 16 the club's management had seen enough and threatened to quit the league. Rink manager Tommy Horne appealed to the league to ''help save Fife Flyers'' claiming the loss of Lovell allied to several niggling injuries had so demoralised the team that they could no longer carry on. Fans were also deserting them in droves.
A 10-8 win over Durham in December eased worries slightly, and a clear the air meeting in January finally kick-started a second half season fightback. Flyers bagged their first league win on March 1 1969 beating Glasgow 2-1 and the return of fans' favourite Gerry Hudson from Italy rekindled enthusiasm. The club concluded the season and continued when the ice went back down in September 1969.
By then a new set of young players were coming through the ranks ... And they would lead the club to unprecedented heights in the next decade.