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Scottish Interlude

For many years, a Christmas ice show was held at Wembley, which made it impossible to stage hockey games from early December until early March. So, by December 1973 the London Lions embarked on one of the longest road trips in the history of sport, lasting until early March 1974! First in line were four games in northern Britain versus various selects from the teams in the British League. These games versus London reportedly substituted any performances by the British National team this season, probably to be able to use foreign players. Remember, apart from chances to exhibit the team and the proposed league, those games probably also were another check up of potential players for the European league. However, the outcome must have been another disappointment as the Lions easily won these games with a total of 49 goals against 11.


Fife Ice Arena

The first of these games was played on Saturday 1 December 1973 versus a Scottish Select at the Fife Ice Arena in Kirkcaldy, east-central Scotland. The 3,000-site Fife Ice Arena, home of the Fife Flyers, is situated on Rosslyn Street and was formerly known as Kirkcaldy Ice Rink. When it opened in 1938 it was the first purpose built ice rink in Britain. It's likely that Johnnie Carlyle, the "Scottish representative" of the Lions and of the proposed league, had arranged this game and it's possible that he would have headed a Scottish franchise if the league had been realized.

Kevin, a Kirkcaldy-based hockey fan and ex-player with the recreational team Fife Icedogs, remembers the game well. He was 10 years old at the time and was amazed by the skill of the Lions; "Scotland lost 10-1, the Lions played tremendous ice hockey and are responsible for me catching the hockey bug". Kevin adds that this was the first ice-hockey game he ever saw and although the Scots were good and solid hockey players, they could not compete against the speed and superior technical skills of the Lions. Kindly enough, Kevin recently tracked down some of the blue-dressed Scottish players and interviewed them about the game. One of them was John Taylor, who remembers the shear size and speed of the Lions. "Now John is a big man at 6ft, 02", and was no slouch on skates but he remembers being left standing on more than one occasion", Kevin adds.

Kenny Horne, a mountain of a man in his younger days and father of present Fife Flyer Kyle Horne, talks about the strength of the Lions on the boards, and he adds that trying to push them out the crease around the nets was "like trying to shift a truck". He also remembers the class and speed and over the years he has spent time teaching youngsters these qualities. Horne still quotes the Lions when talking to youngsters. Jim Hunter, a former Fife Flyer player, was injured at the time and did not play.
The next day, the London Lions played another Scottish game versus an International Select in Dundee. They went on to play two more games in northern Britain against a Northeast Select before heading to Scandinavia and the home of former world-class Olympians Leif Holmqvist and Ulf Sterner. According to Mark Spector in his article on the London Lions in National Post, September 2007 (see A Skate Down Memory Lane), the Lions "lent a few players to the opposition in Scotland just to make it a game", which may explain the "International Select" billing.

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Holmqvist and Sterner