Dave Manzie's life rinkside working with Fife Flyers
Dave Manzie sits as close to the action as you can get without actually lacing up a pair of skates.
He’s been part of the timekeeping team for decades – 50-plus years of working on match nights, and he has the scars to prove it.
He’s been hit by the puck more often than he cares to remember.
“I once counted up the number of stitches I’d got over a period of time - 28 in total!’’
Despite the war wounds, he remains in love with the game he first saw around 1954.
He went along with some work colleagues, and a gradual interest – “a very fast, gradual interest” - hasn’t waned.
Dave worked at Harry K. Brown in Nicol, Street, Kirkcaldy – it’s now home to Crosbie Matthews – and got his first glimpse of the game in the mid 1950s when sticks were made of wood, and the kit was basic.
“Nebby Thrasher played at centre ice – not a bad player,’’ he recalled. “One of my earliest memories was Fife playing Nottingham and we were getting beat something like 18-0 when Thrasher grabbed the puck in his own end, went up the ice and scored to break the shut out!’’
The player, from Timmins, Ontario, went on to be Flyers top points scorer that season.
The team included imports such as , Walt Malahoff and Ken Johansson, who spent three years in the UK before returning home where his career included a spell with the US national team.
It also featured Bert Smith, one of only six Olympians to hail from this neck of the woods, and a pioneer of the sport - the first local player to ice with Flyers, who enjoyed a sterling 20-year career.
The 60s brought the ‘Perth Line’ and players such as netminder Roy Reid, while the 70s saw British championship success under Law Lovell, and the 80s brought the birth of the legendary Wembley weekends.
Dave saw them all as timekeeper and supporter, enjoying the friendships forged with fans at home and on road trips.
“Durham was always a great place to visit, and we used to go to Billingham - we ended up going to the wedding of one of their players!
“At Wembley I remember Fife leading Racers 7-1 at the end of the first period. As far as Racers were concerned, it was game over - that was them out.
“One Racers’ fan got on our bus after he’d been left at the hotel. After that he was 50/50 when it came to supporting us or them!”
The move from supporter to working rinkside came after a call for help.
“They were short of someone to work. Dennis Nevey was the timekeeper, and they needed a penalty timekeeper. I went down and did it.
“Back then the rink had an old clock and you had to work out the time manually when players were due back on the ice. Today it is much easier.
“You are also right down at the ice pad and, until they put up a cage, we were wide open, so you had to keep your eye on the puck.”
With his berth also sandwiched between the sin bins, Dave has also been caught up in a few flash points over the year, and witnessed more than a few players and coaches venting their anger at the officials..
“I remember Rick Fera throwing a chair at a player - had to jump out of the way of that one!
“But the players generally don’t say much. They are too focussed on the game , and if they are in the bin then they are watching to see when they get back on the ice.”
And for Dave, the club’s anniversary season cannot come quick enough.
“I still enjoy it,’’ he said. “During summer it’s desperation – you count down, six Saturdays to go, then five!
“I get a great seat,in between watching the game … and keeping an eye on the puck.’’