Other Icehockey Lions in London

London Lions (1924-33)
Team colours: blue and white

Blaine Sexton was the driving force and captain of the first London Lions, which appeared during the 1924-25 season. Sexton was born in 1892 and raised in Windsor, Nova Scotia. He joined the Canadian Army and was posted to England in 1916 as an infantry officer during World War One. Being qualified by British residence he was selected to play defence for the Great Britain team that competed in the 1924 Winter Olympics, winning a bronze medal. Despite the absence of ice rinks in southern Britain, he founded the London Lions in the autumn of 1924 and took the team on many tours of Europe.

Why using a lion as a symbol? Well, the big feline itself was probably lifted from the British coat of arms while the wings and the actual design may have been inspired by military symbols.

Blaine Sexton in London Lions uniform

The team, which comprised mainly expatriate Canadians, contested the final of the 1924-25 Coupe de Davos and made it through to the quarterfinals of the prestigious Spengler Cup. At the European Championships of January 1926 staged in Davos Switzerland, Lions contributed six out of the ten British players. After having played most of their two first seasons in Germany and Switzerland, the London Lions got their first home ice in 1927 at the Ice Club Westminster, where they played until 1929. Then they switched to the Golders Green between 1929 and 1932. The Lions won the first ever playoffs for the British League title (Patton Cup) in May 1930, beating Glasgow 2-1.

Blaine Sexton (to the left) playing with the London Lions in the French Coupe Jean Potin (1925)

London Lions won their second championship in May 1931, defeating Queen's at the Bayswater Rink. The club played in the English League 1931-33, the last season at Hammersmith and Ice Club Westminster. 1931-33 they iced a second team named London Lions A, which played in English League Division 2. Sexton retired from playing aged 40 at the end of the 1932-33 season. His retirement from the game also saw the demise of the first London Lions. Blaine Sexton passed away in London on 29 April 1966.

Wembley Lions (1934-68)
Team colours: red and white.

1934 saw the opening of the Empire Pool & Sports Arena at Wembley, with the Wembley Lions as one of the two teams. It's likely that the Lions nickname was chosen as a tribute to Sexton's team but the logo was reminiscent of the symbol of the large Imperial Exhibition held at Wembley back in 1924. Lions were also part of the arms of the Borough of Wembley (incorporated into Brent in 1965).

These new Lions joined the English National League, which they won in 1935-36 and 1936-37. In 1937, the Wembley Lions toured in Canada and participated in the World Cup in Toronto. Under the guidance of coach Frank Boucher, the Wembley Lions won the English National League one more time in 1951-52. They visited Sweden several times in the 1950s and in 1959 they won the Ahearne Cup. The visit in 1951 offers an interesting trivia note: 9-year old Ulf Sterner - who would play in the London Lions in 1973-74 - was watching the game between his Forshaga and Wembley and got very impressed by the Anglo-Canadians.

In March 1956 the Wembley Lions were featured in the first televised hockeygame in Britain, beating the Panthers 8-3 at Nottingham. The Wembley Lions won the British National League in 1956-57, as well as the British Autumn Cup in 1957-58. League hockey in Great Britain slowly died in the early 1960s because of the cost of importing players. Another reason was the introduction of an annual circus at Harringay Arena which closed the building to hockey for a month and an ice show at Wembley which made it impossible to stage hockey games for three months from early December until early March. The British League folded after the 1959-60 season. In 1963, icehockey ceased at Southampton, so the Vikings moved to Wembley and revived the Lions. They played in the 1963-64 and 1966-67 BBC Grandstand TV Trophy, but the end was near. On 30 November 1968, the Lions made their last appearance at Wembley, beating Paisley Mohawks 3-0. However, there was no hint in the programme that the sport wouldn't return after the Christmas break.

Wembley Lions (white jerseys) vs Wembley Monarchs in 1949

Lee Valley Lions (1984-)
Team colours: White, green and blue (in the 1990s red, white & black)

In August 1983 the 1000-seated Lee Valley Ice Centre opened at Lea Bridge Road in Leyton, East London, and in 1984 the Lee Valley Lions were founded. As has been seen, lions and icehockey have a long and proud common history in London but it may be worth noting that the original arms of Leyton (which in 1965 was incorporated into Waltham Forest) also featured a lion.

Lowell McDonald, Lee Valley Lions of the 90s

Up until 1995 the Lee Valley Lions played in the British League Division One. In 1998, the Lee Valley Lions Junior Ice Hockey Club was formed. The Ice Centre was also the official training rink of the London Knights, the Anschutz Sports Holdings team that played in the British Superleague 1998-2003. In the autumn of 2003, the Elite League Professional Hockey Club London Racers (a sort of revived Harringay/Haringey Racers) decided to play some of their home games at the Lee Valley Ice Centre in order to introduce the game to a new group of fans in another part of the capital from their normal home venue at Alexandra Palace in North London.

Rob Courtman, Lee Valley Lions of the 00s

In 2005, the Lee Valley Lions senior team was reformed and once again the icehockey Lions returned to London. Julianne Bonner runs the Lee Valley Lions-site which gives all past and present info on the team.