Reunion plan for ice hockey stars
By Gerard Burke
Published: 25 June, 2008
THE heyday of Aviemore's status as British champions of ice hockey will be recalled next month when members of the village's two former teams meet for a reunion match.
The loss of the village's ice rink in 1999 means that the gathering will have to be held in Inverness, but the players and their fans will return to Aviemore for a disco and buffet.
Many who have moved to the strath since the Aviemore Blues folded will have little idea that the village was once home to a top-flight ice hickey team and a collection of international stars.
However, memories of the sport's glory days from the 1970s to 1990s have been rekindled with the prospect of a new rink for the village as part of the second phase of the redevelopment of Aviemore Highland Resort.
The reunion match for members of the Aviemore Blackhawks and the Aviemore Blues, who followed them, will be held at Inverness Ice Rink at 4.30pm on Saturday, July 12, to be followed by a bash at the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore that evening.
Members of both sides are expected to travel "home" to Aviemore from around the UK and even, in the case of Malcolm Wilkie, from as far as France.
Former defender Roddy Bruce, now boss of Aviemore Removals and Storage, is one of a group who have organised the reunion.
"For a small village a mile long, we produced a huge number of international players," he recalled with pride. "We were British champions in the 1986-87 season after we won in Cardiff, but then they came and poached our best players because they could pay them £500 a week.
"The idea for the reunion came from a chat between myself and 'Turkey' Walker. We thought, 'Why don't we just get everyone together again?'"
Mr Bruce played for the Blackhawks alongside many other locals, but was among the first to be lured away by the promise of more money with a rich English team.
"I went and played for Solihull when I was 23," he said. "That had a huge influence on many of the team, and lots of them went south for more money."
The Blackhawks competed in the national leagues from 1975 to 1988, but folded shortly after winning the British championship, when their best players were signed by rival teams.
The sport returned to the strath in 1992 with the formation of the Aviemore Blues, who competed in the Scottish First Division and included several Canadian professionals in their ranks, but this team was disbanded in 1995.
"We hope to have about 40 players there, but the reunion isn't just for the teams but for the fans too," said Mr Bruce, now aged 50. "These games used to attract crowds of more than 1,000, and it would be great to get that kind of support again in Inverness."
He added: "With all the talk about building a new rink in Aviemore, rounding up people who used the last one will do no harm at all."
Tickets for the game and disco are available by calling Mr Bruce (07768 218204); John 'Turkey' Walker on 01778 560969 or 07849 564380, or Mary Walker on 01479 810519. All funds raised will be divided between two local causes – Healthy Minds and Aviemore Primary School.
Copyright 2008 Scottish Provincial Press Ltd.