Ice Hockey UK have announced that goaltenders Charlie Huddlestone and Stevie Lyle will be the 2018 inductees into the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame.
Lyle shot to fame after being selected by then Cardiff Devils coach John Lawless to make his senior debut at just 14-years-old, against Ukrainian champions Sokol Kiev in a IIHF Continental Cup Quarter-Final match.
The Cardiff native backstopped the Devils to a 6-2 win, and went on to have one of the most celebrated careers in British hockey history, helping the Welsh side win the Superleague in 1997 among an abundance of personal and team accolades acquired throughout his 23 year career.
Lyle spent part of ten seasons with the Devils organisation, also featuring for Manchester Storm, Guildford Flames, Bracknell Bees, Sheffield Steelers, Basingstoke Bison, Belfast Giants, and Swindon Wildcats before retiring in 2017.
The 38-year-old also spent time in Italy, France and North America during his career, and represented Team GB 82 times.
“I have so many amazing memories from my time in the sport and it is special to be recognised in this way.” Lyle said of his induction.
“It is a massive honour to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and it would not be possible without the many team-mates I have had over the years.
“I am very touched by the award and I feel honoured to be listed alongside some of the most famous names in this sport in the UK.”
Scottish international netminder Huddlestone was one of the leading lights in the sport in the late 1950s and early 1960s, playing for teams throughout Great Britain.
Both men were inducted due to their ‘outstanding service to British ice hockey’.
Scottish international goaltender, Charles Huddlestone, was renowned as the ‘pied piper’ of ice hockey in the late 1950s and early 1960s, leading a nomadic band of Scottish players to entertain the fans in England. In this dark era for the sport, his tireless work helped to keep the game alive on both sides of the border.
The Glasgow-based Huddlestone, better known as Charlie or Chuck, regularly took his men to play at Brighton, Southampton, Whitley Bay, Durham, Blackpool and Altrincham, which were the only ice hockey rinks in England in those days. Charlie doubled as coach driver, bundling them all into in his own minibus, and even found time to report the team’s games back to The Bulletin newspaper in Glasgow.
The team, self-selected from a pool of about 30, would turn up one weekend as Glasgow Flyers and another as Ayr Hurricanes, mixing and matching players to make up the teams. This didn’t deter the home fans as it was the man himself who was one of the biggest draws. His lively antics in the nets led to one reporter describing him admiringly as ‘the acrobatic Charlie Huddlestone’.
Every year he also took a select side on a week-long continental tour, playing against clubs in the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and elsewhere.
One of the group, Hall of Famer Marsh Key, was also an admirer of Huddlestone and he recalled that it was not all fun and games, saying: “I remember an argument with Charlie about our wages that got a bit heated. It was in the dressing room at Wembley’s hallowed Empire Pool and Sports Arena. Bill Crawford lifted him by the throat and shouted ‘I want my money.’ Charlie coolly replied ‘Bill, I have no money – you’ll just have to hit me’.”
He represented Scotland three times between 1947 and 1962. In his first Home International at Falkirk, the Scots lost 4-2 to England. Fourteen years later he backstopped them to an 8-6 win at Southampton, only to lose 7-3 next day along the coast in Brighton.
Charlie Huddlestone was born into a Jewish family in Bellwood Street, Glasgow on 17th November 1924, the eldest son of a boot and shoelace merchant, and played junior hockey at the local Crossmyloof rink in the late 1930s. He made his senior debut as a left-catching goalie with the newly-formed Paisley Pirates as a 15-year-old in October 1940.
For the decade after World War Two he was a loyal member of Glasgow Mohawks, which played out of Crossmyloof. When the rink’s directors decided in 1957 to cease promoting the sport (along with most other arenas in Scotland), he realised the only way to get regular games was to take the road south. He kept the show on the road until he hung up his skates in 1965, aged 40.
He ran a guest house in the city’s west end for many years and died in 1998, aged 73.
The goalie known by his fans as ‘The Cat’ enjoyed one of the longest and most consistently successful careers of any British netminder.
The Cardiff-born keeper burst onto the scene at the tender age of 14 in 1994 with his home-town side, the Devils, and went on to play for 23 seasons, 12 of them at the top level.
Along the way, he collected two league trophies, two playoff titles and a Challenge Cup. His agility in the nets earned him six Best British Netminder awards, places on three All-Star first teams – and one second team – and a Player of the Year honour.
While the major part of his British career (ten seasons) was spent in Cardiff, he also strapped on his pads with Manchester Storm and Belfast Giants, and in the second tier with Guildford Flames, Bracknell Bees, Basingstoke Bison and latterly three terms with Swindon Wildcats. He took his talents overseas for three years – in the USA, Italy and France where he was numbered among the French league’s All-Stars.
The highlight of his British league career, he recalled, was winning the inaugural Superleague season with the Devils in 1996-97 when the league voted him their Player of the Year. “That was amazing,” he said. “I was only 17 and I was playing with all those imports.”
His ambition was to compete on the world’s greatest ice hockey stage, the NHL, and he took a big step towards this in the summer of 1997 when he was the highest goalie drafted by the Canadian (junior) Hockey League. He signed a three-year contract with Detroit (Plymouth) Whalers but competition for the goalie spot was crowded and he ended that season on their farm team.
Internationally, he was capped 82 times for Great Britain in 13 World Championship tournaments and seven Olympic Qualifiers – all are records for a GB goalie) – compiling an overall 2.53 goals against average. When coach Peter Woods gave him his World Championship debut in 1996 with a 4-2 win over Belarus at the age of 16, he was the youngest goalie ever to play in Britain’s colours.
Only a few months earlier, he had made a splash in the Under-20 World Championship, gaining man-of-the-match honours in three of GB’s four games.
Lyle was younger still when he was picked by his coach John Lawless to start for the Devils in a Continental Cup quarter-final match in 1994 at the ridiculously early age of 14. The gamble paid off as he backstopped the Devils to a 6-2 win over the heavily favoured Ukrainian champs Sokol Kiev and the club went on to qualify for the cup semis. “I don’t remember being particularly impressed with this,” he said. “I was so young I suppose I thought it was normal.”
Stevie Lyle retired at the end of the 2016-17 season after three years with the Wildcats where he also coached some games with the English Premier League side.
About the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame Committee
Andy French is currently general secretary of Ice Hockey UK; David Gordon is a sports historian and author of a book on Scottish ice hockey; Jim Graves is a former netminder and the proprietor of Rockies Sports Bar in Belfast, home of the UK’s largest exhibition of ice hockey memorabilia; Martin Harris is a former referee and the foremost historian of British ice hockey; and Stewart Roberts is the former editor of The Ice Hockey Annual.
PHOTO: Richard Murray