Five finals and goals galore for Fife Flyers’ 1973 team
Fife Flyers contested no fewer than five cup finals in 1973-74 , set new goalscoring records, and still ended the season empty handed.
The team, built by coach Harold ‘Pep’ Young, freewheeled through games, racking up numerous double figure scorelines in the old NIHA.
It played right through until mid-May, but still silverware eluded it.
The roster was very much one made in Kirkcaldy, but with two imports.
Right-winger Ian Ferguson hailed from North Ontario, and centreman Reggie Smith from Alberta.
They joined a squad that featured many stalwarts including two Lovells, Les and Law, three Taylors (John, George and Jim), Chic Cottrell, Rab Petrie, Ally Brennan, Bruce Libbos, Dave Medd, Norrie Boreham, John Pullar and Jimmy Hunter
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Flyers were part of a seven-team NIHA structure, and their opening game set the tone for a season dominated by some old-style shoot-outs.
They gunned down Dundee Rockets 9-7 in the opening Skol Trophy match with Smith grabbing a hat-trick on his debut as he teamed up well with the Lovell brothers.
Glasgow Dynamos were then crushed 14-1. The west coast side were homeless – they’d been turfed out of Crossmyloof – and had zero ice time under their belts which allowed Law Lovell to plunder five goals.
Dynamos’ stablemates, the equally homeless Paisley, then came to town and were blitzed 22-4 in the Icy Smith Cup – a record score since the formation of the Northern League in 1966.
There were hat-tricks for Brennan, Smith, Law Lovell and McAuley as Paisley winger Shawn Nisnane found himself donning the goalie kit when their regular netminder couldn’t get time off work.
Flyers were given a much tougher test in Whitley, where they drew 7-7, and then suffered defeat for the first time, losing 5-3 to Murrayfield Racers in the Skol Trophy.
The main talking point came off-ice as the prospects of a trip to Italy were unveiled.
The offer came from a former Flyer, Gerry Hudson, who was coaching out there, and Fife would have been the first Scottish side to play as guests.
Pep was keen to explore the idea, having taken the team to Holland the year before where they were meant to play local amateur teams, but found themselves up against a Dutch All-Stars outfit which crushed them 11-0 just to add insult to the feelings of sea sickness that hit the team.
Back on the ice, Durham Wasps were beaten 15-8 in a game which delivered five goals inside 60 seconds – three for Flyers, two for the visitors.
The newly-formed London Lions then came to town for an exhibition game.
Lions were launched to rekindle interest in the capital city which had once played host to the famous Earls Court Rangers and Wembley Monarchs, and their line up included Winter Olympic skaters plus Terry Clancy, formerly of Toronto Maple Leafs.
Pep rated them highly: “Lions are a top class team and, in my opinion, will be the best that has been seen here since the days of professional hockey in the 1950s.”
He was right. Even with guest players from other Scottish sides, Fife were no match, going down 10-1. Law Lovell got their only goal
An 8-6 loss to a Dundee Rockets team inspired by the return of veteran Mike Mazur, saw some alarm bells ringas the defence started to leak goals at a worrying rate.
Smith signed off at the end of 1973, netting a hat-trick in a 6-6 tie with Racers before returning to Canada to continue his studies, with John Falcon lined up to step into his place in the New year
But 1974 dawned with goals – lots of them.
On one weekend, Flyers rang the red light 23 times – 13-1 versus Paisley, and 10-6 at Dundee – to leap-frog four clubs and take second spot behind Whitley in the Northern League.
Glasgow Dynamos were then hammered 17-3 in a game which saw Fife net 12 without reply in period three to set a new league record. Chic Cottrell scored a double hat-trick to go with the six he bagged while also icing for Kirkcaldy Kestrels.
Their defensive frailties came back to haunt then in a key game against Warriors who won 11-9 in Kirkcaldy to knock Flyers back down to third.
Their response was to whip Paisley 26-4 in the Skol Trophy. A record win and it took Mohawks’ number of goals conceded on just three visits to Fife to an eye-watering 61.
A double hat-trick for Rab Petrie, five for Cottrell, and hat-tricks for the Lovells, Stuart Muir and Jimmy Jack.
Spare a thought for local lad Tom Houston who was the last-minute stand-in goalie who was burned – “the loss of 26 goals is probably enough to put him off the sport for life” noted the Fife Free Press.
The tables were turned the next night as Racers hammered Fife 14-4 with Derek Reilly netting a remarkable 10 goals to set another new record.
Going into March and then April there was plenty silverware up for grabs.
They dispatched Durham 4-1 in the opening round of the Dunhelm Trophy, and Whitley 9-6 in the Spring Cup semi-final first leg – although they were 6-0 up and cruising at one stage.,
The Skol trophy was won and lost over a weekend as they made the final by eliminating Whitley only to lose 5-3 at the hands of Racers.
A 5-5 draw in Whitley secured a berth in the Spring Cup final against Dundee, and Rockets triumphed 7-4 in front of the biggest crowd of the season.
By May they were still playing, but they ended the season with an empty trophy cabinet despite making five finals – the Northumbria Cup, and the Angus Challenge Cup also eluded their grasp as they finished third in the Northern League.