Blackhawks back in action
By Gavin Musgrove
Published: 16 July, 2008
MEMBERS of the Aviemore Blackhawks turned back the clock more than 20 years when they took to the ice for a reunion at Inverness rink at the weekend.
The former players from the village's top-flight ice hockey team winged their way back to their old stomping ground from across not only the UK but in the case of former Scotland and Great Britain international, Malcolm Wilkie, from France.
The older generation from the GB division one title winning team of 1986 donned their famous red tops again to take on members of Aviemore Blues, the team that followed in their steps at the rink at the old Aviemore Centre and played in the Scottish First Division in the mid 1990s.
It was the Blues "youngsters" that secured a 12-8 victory on Saturday afternoon in the Highland capital with Peterborough Phantoms player-coach Ross MacKintosh and Chris Helik topping the goal-scoring charts for the victors.
Patrick Franks for the Blues also had a game to remember and helped to keep the Blackhawks' attack at bay with a string of superb saves.
World Cup slalom ski star Noel Baxter (26), turned out for the Blues, while his father, Ian, was in the opposing team, illustrating the village's long-standing links with the game.
They were the youngest and oldest players on the rink – in fact Ian turned 63-years-old that weekend.
Among some of those former players having to travel a little further to play were John Walker, from Peterborough; John Bremner and Gavin Fraser, from Nottingham, and Archie Nelson, from Cardiff.
Grantown man John MacKintosh took to the ice for the first time in 17 years as part of the Blackhawk's line-up.
"It was fantastic to be back on the ice with the shirt back on," said the right winger. "It was pretty tough going to begin with but I soon got back into the swing of things. Everyone to a man enjoyed the entire weekend. There were team members who had not met for 25 years."
Noel Baxter agreed: "It was such a great day. The banter and the atmosphere was terrific.
"I have grown up with stories about the Blackhawks from my dad, who even pre-dated them, so it was great to be able to play against some familiar names if not faces. "They were kind of heroes to me when I was eleven and 12-years-old.
"I know that some of them had not been on the
ice for a long time but in the run-up to the match they had clearly been putting
in the practice and found their skating legs – some of them were still quite
sharp to be honest.
"There was more rivalry than I expected – as the younger team with fresher legs we certainly didn't want the Blackhawks to have bragging rights on the bus on the way home."
It was the first time that the Olympian had faced his father on the ice although the pair have played together several times in the past including the final ever game at the old Aviemore rink.
Noel remarked: "I was a bit nervous that I was going to hurt him then he really sprinted and I thought that I better up my game if I was not to be shown up."
Around 40 players gathered for the match, which was played in front of several hundred spectators despite having to be staged in Inverness, because their old haunt in Aviemore was demolished eight years ago and has never been replaced.
Members of both teams sported their original numbers and a shirt poignantly worn by the team's Red Indian mascot bore the name of Brian Dickson, who was killed while working in Australia in 1995, aged 29, after falling from a moving vehicle.
The late player's shirt is going to be presented to his family by former team-mate Roddy Bruce, who was also instrumental in making the reunion happen.
Both sets of players, family, friends and fans enjoyed a post-match celebration in the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore.
Copyright 2008 Scottish Provincial Press Ltd