1990: The night an effigy of a Fife Flyers player was hung from a noose above the ice

It was the fight that led to the grotesque sight of an effigy being dangled from a noose high above the ice pad.

Thursday, 31st December 2020, 1:26 pm
The brutal fight between Mike Rowe and Chris Kelland, Murrayfield Racers, Rowe was branded a "lumberjack" by Racers' coach Leo Koopmans - and it led to an effigy of the Flyers' player being hung from the rafters of Murrayfield Ice Rink when the teams played again two weeks later (Pic: Bill Dickman/Fife Freer Press)

Fife Flyers and Murrayfield Racers have been arch rivals down through the generations, and gone hammer and tongs on many hockey nights - but nothing will ever come close to this sickening moment.

It happened back in 1990 and, incredibly, no photos of the effigy exist.

The flashpoint had its roots in a shocking flashpoint in Kirkcaldy two weeks earlier, in a rather meaningless, midweek Icy Smith Cup tie.

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Fife Flyers defenceman Mike Rowe (Pic: Bill Dickman/Fife Free Press)

Racers held an eight-goal lead, making this a mere formality, until the heavyweights, Mike Rowe and Chris Kelland clashed.

Rowe was a fearsome defenceman who had been signed from Whitley Warriors, Kelland was Racers’ 60-minute defensive rock, and tough as granite

It was the clubs’ eighth meeting of the season across five different competitions, and familiarity bred contempt.

The flashpoint was a shocking high stick from Rowe on Kelland as the duo went one on one for goal.

Chris Kelland, Murrayfield Racers

The stickwork saw Rowe sit a five-minute major penalty, and Kelland departed to the dressing-room for treatment - His anger was evident for all to see.

Seven minutes after both returned, they clashed in front of the Fife team bench, and what followed was a prolonged, brutal fight.

The delays meant the opening period took some 55 minutes to play, and referee, the late Mickey Curry, threw both men out.

Leo Koopmans, Racers’ shoot-from-the-lip coach, branded the high sticks “one of the worst incidents” he had ever seen in hockey and accused Rowe of deliberately trying to injure his captain.

He took his verbal attacks further, branding Rowe a “lumberjack” in Racers’ match night programme as the two sides met again in Edinburgh.

As the teams took to the ice, a dummy on a noose was dangled from one of the old lighting gantries high above the pad.

It had a Fife strip with Rowe’s number on its back. The target couldn’t have been more obvious.

The Fife Free Press reported: “The sick, grotesque jibe was greeted with glee by the large home support.

“The stunt was unworthy of such a fine club. Public hanging of effigies takes us into a new and very ugly world.

“Somebody somewhere owes Rowe an apology and the SIHA a detailed explanation of their very warped sense of humour.”Fife lost the match 12-7, but the effigy was the sole topic of conversation.

The fans who were there were outraged, and, sitting in the crowd, Rowe’s wife, was left distressed.

Flyers lodged a complaint with the British ice Hockey Association, but, incredibly, they almost let Racers off.

Jim Anderson said: “We told them if the dummy was removed we would take no further action, but it re-appeared at the buzzer so we lodged an immediate complaint.”

The BIHA fined Racers £100 and issued a “severe reprimand” with the final word: “The matter is now closed.”

Thirty years on, it remains one of the most shocking moments from one of the sport’s greatest rivalries.

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