One of the most infamous ice hockey games of the 1990s took place in Paisley when a meaningless challenge match turned into mayhem, all of it captured by the cameras from new satellite broadcaster, Sky Scottish.
The station launched on November 1, 1996 in a bid to cash in on the satellite broadcasting boom.
Its sole excursion into ice hockey was a game specially staged in March 1997 for its cameras between Paisley Pirates and Fife Flyers for the Deloitte & Touche Plate. And, with nothing much at stake, the fierce rivals served up a true old-style battle which made headlines for all the wrong reasons, and probably left viewers utterly bewildered.
An “X-rated TV farce” was how the Fife Free Press described it.
It was old school blood and snotters hockey, in front of a capacity 1300 crowd at the Lagoon Centre, which saw a brawl take place on the Flyers’ bench as players clashed off the ice.
Ref, Alec McWilliams, dished out 174 PIMs which included eight game misconducts and a slew of double minors for roughing.
Flyers and Pirates were great rivals back then and their games often had an edge to them, with many ex-Fife skaters now icing with the legendary character, Doug Marsden, at the Lagoon Centre – but this game was still something else. It was also one of the longest games of the modern era in Scotland.
Flyers ended the game with just one import and staged one of those crazy comebacks to take the points, but the result was almost forgotten amid the mayhem.
There were various flashpoints, but one catalyst was a hit on the back boards by Lee Mercer on Pirates’ player-coach Doug Marsden.
As he then went to the Fife bench he was nailed by Marsden, and all hell let loose.
Everyone piled in, and gloves and fists went flying as players tried to pair off within the confines of the bench area.
The TV cameraman on his bench had a bird’s eye view of the mayhem, until Russ Parent, Flyers’ defenceman, reached up and calmly placed his glove over the camera lens. Smart move!
The match night mascot was also on the bench, and he was huckled to safety as chaos reigned.
Once the dust settled, the refs got their notebooks out and so began a lengthy procession to the dressing-rooms.
For Pirates, Scott Plews, Simon Leach and Marsy all received game misconducts.
Dean Edmiston received a susbequent one-match ban for coming out of the sin bin to join the fight!
Flyers saw Mark Morrison and Frank Morris ejected, leaving Parent as the sole import.
Also ejected were Andy Samuel, Lee Mercer and John Reid, while a host of players received double minors for roughing, including Pirates’ goalie Ricky Grubb.
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Order restored, Flyers regrouped with what was left on their bench.
sThey’d started the game minus the injured King brothers, while Gordon Latto retired after the first period after chipping his elbow, and John Haig wsd removed at the end opf the firdt period “for his own safety” according to the Fife Free Press, “after being taregted for special attention.” There were later allegations he was verbally abused by Paisley official.
had seen enough and got changed at the end of the first.
Latto joined Chic Cottrell on the bench, while Parent and Mark Slater talked their young Brit lines through every single shift.
It was a night when Pirates were in total control, going 2-0 up early on and taking the first period 5-3 and the second 6-4.
Netminder Ricky Grubb was playing out of his skin, and John Downes – another former Fife junior player – bagged a hat-trick.
But then something remarkable happened.
Defenceman Wayne Maxwell netted to make it 6-4, shortly after missing a penalty shot, and Fife started to gain momentum. They got back to 6-5 and then 6-6 and the rink erupted with noise.
Flyers then went 7-6 up with a freak own goal – Parent’s shot coming off the back boards, Grubb playing the puck and then looking on helplessly as it rebounded off Neil Smith’s leg into his own net.
Pirates pulled Grubb, and Parent hit an empty net goal to spark wild scenes of celebration. The defenceman simply took off his helmet, smoothed his hair and went back to his position … as laid back as ever!
At the final buzzer, Mark Morrison raced out of the dressing-room and danced across the ice, congratulating each and every one of his players. It was very unlike Mo to be so animated!
The fall-out rumbled on for days.
The Paisley Daily Express ran the headline FLYERS DRESSING ROOM TRASHED with a demand from the leisure centre bosses that they pay for the damage.
They never did. There never was a bill.
And then came MASCOT IN HOCKEY TERROR which focused on the poor kid who found himself engulfed in the bench brawl.
He was fine, but that night was the last time ever that a mascot was allowed to sit on the bench as part of his duties – hockey bosses quickly amended the rules before moving on from a crazy night.