Deportation threat hung over Fife Flyers' star imports
Fife Flyers went from the highs of winning the British championship in April 1985 to a visa row which almost saw two of their stars deported at the start of a new campaign.
It took an eleventh-hour intervention to avoid losing player-coach Ron Plumb and new signing Todd Bidner.
They were given a deadline of noon on a Thursday to leave the country after the Department of Employment ruled their paperwork was not in order – and came close to being put back on the next flight back to Canada.
The drama began after the mysterious disappearance of application forms for work permits for all three of the club’s imports – Danny Brown being the other player.
While he wasn’t due in the country until later, Plumb was back, along with new signing, 24-year old Todd Bidner.
They arrived at Prestwick Airport on the Saturday and ran straight into problems.
Kirkcaldy Ice Hockey Club had posted all the paperwork to the Overseas Labour Section of the Dept of Employment in London after initially being led to believe the permits were being processed. Not so.
Jack Dryburgh, rink manager, was perturbed to hear they hadn’t even been received, and so began a scramble to get the documentation signed off.
He told the Fife Free Press: “We sent off the application forms for work permits for all three players on August 4.
“Last year the permits took about three weeks to come through, and when they didn’t arrive after that time I contacted the DoE.
“At first I was told there had been a computer breakdown, and there was no way things could be speeded up.
“I checked again a few days later and, after running Danny’s name through the computer, it seemed everything was ion order.
“However, after another call it emerged they had not even been received, and Danny’s application on the computer was from last year.”
Duplicate copies were sent immediately overnight to London where representatives of the BIHA took them to the DoE in Caxton House first thing in the morning.
With Kirkcaldy MP Harry Gourlay away on holiday, Mr Dryburgh appealed to Barry Henderson, MP for North East Fife for help.
On Wednesday, it was announced the work permits were being issued and the deportation orders had been lifted.
“We are extremely grateful to Mr Henderson for his intervention.
“Without it, Ron and Todd would have been forced to leave the country,’’ said Mr dryburgh.
“Out first priority was obviously to prevent them from being deported, and I am relieved the situation has been resolved in time. It was an extremely tight situation, and was something that the players could well have done without so close to the start of the season.
“The whole affair has been sickening, and we must ensure it never happens again.’’
Plumb and Bidner seemed relatively unmoved by their brush with officialdom, shrugging it off as ‘’red tape’’.
Plumb said: “The immigration officials were very sympathetic towards us, but their hands were tied.”
With his paperwork in order, Bidner was introduced to his new team mates at a full scale training session on Tuesday night.
The 24-year old left winger said: “I was very impressed with the standard of skating.’’
Bidner revealed that Brown had played a big part in bringing him to Fife.
“I have known Danny for about six years and we get on very well,’’ he said. “My contract with Adirondack Vikings was up at the end of last season and, although I was approached about playing in Sweden, Danny put me in the picture about Flyers.
“I met up with Ron Plumb and Jack Dryburgh during the summer and I was very impressed with what they had to say.’’
Bidner said Flyers’ success in winning the British championship the previous season was a factor in his decision to sign.
“I have never played on a championship winning team before,’’ he said. “It doesn’t matter where you are playing or at what level – it is always great to win a championship.”
Bidner had a hard act to follow in the shape of record goalscorer Dave Stoyanovich.
“I have played against Dave and we are totally different players. Knowing Danny’s style I think we will complement each other.’’
Bidner set himself no targets for the season, adding: “It is always nice to have personal goals, but the team comes first. There’s no point me scoring five goals if we lose 6-5.
“I have had a really great reception from the supporters and I am really forward to the season on and off the ice.
“I have never seen any British ice hockey but I have heard a lot about it, and it looks like the league will be very tight this season.’’