Steven King: A life in ice hockey

Flyers v Cardiff  11-12-93
Flyers v Cardiff 11-12-93

Matthew Elder speaks to a true Fife Flyers legend as he returns to the dressing-room

ICE hockey player Steven King not only fits the criteria of a sporting legend, he sets the standard.

Flyers v Murrayfield Racers 12-10-96

Flyers v Murrayfield Racers 12-10-96

Stunning career statistics of 748 appearances, 404 goals and 741 assists is a record most players can only aspire to.

More remarkably, this was all achieved with one club, his home-town Kirkcaldy team, Fife Flyers.

Only the great Gordon Latto, Flyers longest-serving player, has served the club longer.

‘Kingy’ hung up his skates, and his iconic number 12 jersey, in 2011 after 22 seasons in the gold, white and blue.

Steven King Fife Flyers

Steven King Fife Flyers

The book, it seemed, had been closed on a truly exceptional career.

Not quite, as at the age of 37, the veteran forward has stepped back onto the ice to write one final chapter.

Current player-coach Todd Dutiaume has lured his former team-mate out of retirement for one more crack at the big time.

And to the delight of Flyers fans, Steven made his comeback in a recent Elite League win over Edinburgh Capitals at Fife Ice Arena.

“Some people might question why I’ve came back and say I’ve had my time – they’d probably be right!” Steven told the Press. “But I’m not coming back to try to keep a young guy out the team.

“If the youngsters are good enough then they need to play before me. I’m only here to help out where I can and step in for a shift or two - I’m not the future of the club.

“But it’s great to be back and I’m enjoying coming to training again and being back in with the boys. That was the bit I missed the most - having a laugh with the boys.”

Despite all his years of experience, Steven admitted he was a bag of nerves on his comeback night.

“After being away and not playing at that level for so long there were a lot of nerves,” he said. “I didn’t want to make any mistakes. You see how close the games are and one mistake can turn a game.

“But I got a great reception from the crowd, and the guys played really well.

“I had a few shifts, and I was all over the place, but if someone got a wee breather then that was fine.

“The atmosphere was good and the fans were great, so it was really enjoyable.”

Steven followed his older brother Derek into ice hockey, and he remembers making his Flyers debut aged just 15 in the old Heineken Premier League in 1989.

“We were away to Ayr and I’m sure it was the same day Scotland won the Grand Slam against England at rugby,” he recalled. “I was listening to it on the bus on the way through.

‘‘We only had three imports back then - Rick Fera, Luc Beausoleil and Mike Rowe.

“I only played a couple of shifts towards the end and Flyers won.”

It did not take long for Steven to cement a regular place alongside top imports as his sublime skills and eye for goal shone through.

“A couple of young guys got their chance and I was one of them,” he said.

“It was a lot more relaxed back then because it wasn’t as professional as it is now, but the fans still came and enjoyed it.

“One game that sticks out was up here against Sheffield in the semi-final of the Findus Cup.

“It was on television and the place was packed. Sheffield were a good team then but we beat them and I scored a couple of goals.

“We also had a great period in the late 90s when we won a Grandslam.

“I’d played for a good while and not won anything, then Mark Morrison came along and a whole new era started.

“In terms of winning trophies, we ticked every box. It was a great time to be at the club.”

Steven’s performances for Fife meant he had plenty admirers from other teams, but he never considered leaving the club.

“To be honest, I was quite happy here,” he said. “I had a job here and I could do something I loved at the same time, right on my doorstep.

“The club was looking after me, so there was no reason to move. The Flyers wanted me and I wanted to be here.”

Despite his blinding talent, Steven’s decision to balance a hockey career with full-time employment prevented him from achieving the international recognition he deserved.

“I played all the way through the Great Britain juniors but I couldn’t make senior camps due to work commitments,” he said.

“There were players in the GB team that I’d grown up with and maybe I would have been good enough but I don’t worry about that.

“I had other priorities. It would have been nice, but I had a job and I couldn’t afford to take any more time off for the hockey.

“The way I saw it, I had the best of both worlds. I had a job, which was important to me, and I was getting to play hockey.

“The hockey won’t always be there, but you always need a job.

“I know everyone has their own ideas about that, but that’s how I saw it, and it worked out fine for me. I’m quite happy with the choices I made.”

The collapse of the British National League in 2005 saw Flyers descend into the amateur ranks, but Steven’s loyalty to the club remained strong.

But after six years of total dominance in the second-rate Northern League, he took the decision to retire when the club returned to the professional scene last summer.

“The Northern League was dragging on for me,” he revealed.

“I’d played at that kind of level before just after the collapse of the Heineken League, but I was still young then and I had everything in front of me.

“Flyers had to go to Elite League, and I’m glad they did, but I felt I couldn’t commit to it because of work.

“I would miss too many games, so retiring was the natural progression for me. Now that I’m back I can see that the local guys have come on leaps and bounds since I last played with them.

“I believe last year was pretty torrid for them, but they’ve learned the hard way.

“They are now on the same journey I was on 20 years ago, and it’s nice to see them getting their chance.”

Having played a huge part in Flyers history, Steven is now looking forward to playing a small part in its future, but for how much longer?

“I can’t see myself doing it for much longer,” he said.

“I’m still enjoying it and the guys have all accepted me flitting in and out of training.

“It’s the only way it can be, and if I can help a wee bit, then great.

“I think I’ll only play this year, but they way things have gone before, I’d never say never.”

Whatever happens, a long overdue testimonial ought to be on the cards.