Launching Fife Flyers in the shadow of world war

Fife Flyers archive - players Verne Gregor, Pep Young, Andy Napier and Joe McIntosh
Fife Flyers archive - players Verne Gregor, Pep Young, Andy Napier and Joe McIntosh

It’s incredible to think Fife Flyers were launched just months before the world went to war.

October 1, 1938 was the date of Flyers’ first ever game as the doors opened to the newly constructed Kirkcaldy Ice Rink.

The building cost £37,000 to construct - compare that to the £15,000 building the town’s fire station that same year, and both still stand to this day.

It was constructed by tradesmen largely from the area, and it was the widest single span building of its time - no pillars were placed in the middle, giving fans outstanding sighting lines to this day.

It remains an old-time hockey rink in the current modern era – one that has a unique, often gladiatorial match night atmosphere.

Pre-war, the sport enjoyed a boom time.

GB’s gold medal success at the 1936 Winter Olympics sparked huge interest in the world’s fastest team sport, and rinks were being planned across the country.

Scottish hockey fans in the 1930s could watch teams such as Kelvingrove, Glasgow Mustangs, Perth Panthers, Falkirk Lions, and Dundee Tigers. Add in Paisley Pirates, Dunfermline Vikings, Murrayfield Royals, and Fife Flyers it was no surprise there was genuine talk of the Scottish scene expanding at a remarkable rate.

And even more rinks were planned to come on stream as the UK caught the ice hockey bug.

The 1939 Ice Hockey Annual revealed plans for no fewer than three super stadia in Aberdeen. A £60,000 arena was already under construction and was being promoted by Aberdeen Ice Rink Limited. There were also plans to convert a cinema in the city as well as building a 15,000 seat arena in the heart of the city.

Dunfermline, Stirling, Paisley, Inverness, Hamilton, Edinburgh and Ayr all had blueprints actively under consideration while in Glasgow there was talk of icing a team out of the Kelvin Hall.

In the end, the outbreak of World War Two spiked that boom, and changed the course of the sport forever.

All the plans were either scaled back or scrapped. Inverness, Aberdeen and Motherwell never got off the ground, Hamilton did get a rink two decades later that was unsuitable for hockey, while Edinburgh’s Murrayfield was promptly requisitioned by the Government for the war effort and not handed back until the early 1950s - in fact this year marks its own 65th anniversary.

Paisley’s proposed 15,000 seater was also scaled down, but the sport did endure in the town.

Writing in the annual, Bernard Stocks commented: ‘’Hitler ... He had many crimes to answer for when he tried to put his lust for power into reality. One of them was the stifling of the hockey boom in this country which today could have seen the sport rivalling football and flourishing, where it is now struggling to get a firm hold.’’

>> Some of this content was originally written, by the FFP, for Fife Flyers’ museum and website.