The Flyers have met European opposition 27 times in the past and that number has been greatly increased in more recent seasons with the hosting of Danish and German teams in preseason games.
Ahead of this weekend’s games against Tilburg Trappers and CSM Corona Brasov let’s take a look back at games specifically against Dutch and Romanian opposition.
Flyers v Dutch Opposition
HYS Veronica 538 11 Fife Flyers 0
The Flyers first and so far only game played in Continental Europe was on Friday 16th February 1973 when they made the journey across the North Sea to face a team based in The Hague. The rink was called De Uithof and had only been opened on January 2nd that year, the existing rink in the town, built in 1933, was called De Houtrusthallen. De Uithof was the home of Veronica 538 Den Haag – the Veronica bit was, it appears, a sponsorship for a couple of years at the time of the new rink opening after there had been a falling out in the town about the running of the team and there was a parting of the ways to create another team (which was the Veronica team). It’s not entirely clear what ever happened around those two season but Veronica and Hijs Hokij Den Haag, who were the original team and started in 1933, became a single entity again and are still on the go today and they still play at De Uithof although the 1973 rink was extensively replaced after a fire in the 2000’s and there is now also a vast indoor ski/sports complex attached. The Fife history makers included John Pullar, both Lovell brothers, although Les was unable to play as his leg was in a cast following injury in a benefit game for Bruce Libbos who ironically had broken his ankle earlier that season playing for the Flyers. Others were Jimmy Hunter, Chic Cottrell, Ally Brennan, Rab Petrie, Ken McAuley, Jimmy Jack, Stuart Muir, John Taylor, Gus Cargill, Kenny Horne and Norrie Boreham. It appears the Flyers didn’t have their sea legs as most of the party were ill on the ferry crossing from Hull to Rotterdam before a brief sightseeing stop in Amsterdam. As far as the group were concerned the match was to be against Veronica but as it transpired it was more akin to a Dutch league select that they faced which significantly increased the level of their opponents. It was an arrangement that the Flyers had themselves used many times to help bolster their squad, in particular against foreign opposition. Some of the players attribute this stacking of the opposition roster to the build up that coach ‘Pep’ Young had given the hosts about the stature of the Flyers. It backfired slightly and was as one sided a game as the score line suggests against a Fife side who, from their 19 domestic games to that point in the season, had lost only once, drawn two and won 16 whilst outscoring their opposition 179-86. The score line was reported in the Dutch Telegraph, one of the country’s leading newspapers, as being against Veronica. Interesting that the same newspaper carried reports of the domestic games involving Veronica but only gave the score line for the visit of Fife – we guess it wasn’t a big deal to them. Leo Koopmans is a name some Flyers fans will remember as being the Murrayfield Racers coach at the time of the unsavory incident involving Mike Rowe whom he had earlier branded a “lumberjack” – he was a 19 year old with Veronica that season.
The image below shows Les Lovell and Ally Brennan (on the left) and Stuart Muir and Norrie Boreham (on the right) dining on the ferry crossing.
Fife Flyers 5 Utrecht Hunters 11
The visit to Fife on 18th January 1975 by the Utrecht Hunters was the first by a European team since the Flyers hosted the Polish National team in December 1965. The Dutch team would play Whitley Warriors the following night on their whistle stop tour. It was to be a tough test for the home side with the professional visitors having six Canadians an American and many Dutch Internationalists in their lineup. There was a large crowd in attendance and they were certainly not disappointed with the entertainment. Although the Dutch showed their class and won with something to spare the Flyers probably played as well as they had done all season. After the opening ceremony which saw both teams piped on to the ice the game got underway with the Flyers showing a slight edge in the first ten minutes. Then Utrecht stepped up the pace to score three times through Wagner, Fink and Hubley. Three minutes later a great roar greeted Flyers opening goal scored by Lawrie Lovell but seven seconds later Utrecht made it 4-1. Jimmy Jack quickly netted a second Flyers goal only to see the Hunters score as well. At the start of the second period Flyers found themselves with a man advantage and Les Lovell reduced the leeway to 5-3. Utrecht who had been playing in spurts then took greater control of the game. They gave Flyers a lesson in man to man passing and only shot at goal when there was a clear cut chance. When a player broke through with only the keeper to beat he rarely missed and that clinical edge resulted in four more goals for the visitors. Flyers were first to score in the final period when Utrecht’s netminder failed to hold a shot from Lawrie Lovell and the defender in an attempt to clear knocked the puck into his own net. Flyers were outshooting their opponents in this period but the goals that would have brought them back into the game didn’t come. Utrecht continued to add to their total and the highlight of the last period was the play of the young Kirkcaldy forward line of Jimmy Jack (seen below on the left along with Chic Cottrell) who scored another and was the Mirror of Merit winner alongside the Latto brothers Dougie and Gordon. The team who had changed their name from Dragons to Hunters that season stuck with their new name for a further season before reverting back to the Dragons who they remain as today.
Fife Flyers 5 Dutch National U21 9
It was a boxing day treat for Flyers fans who entertained the Dutch National U21 side on 26th December 1981. The match heralded an increase in ticket price given the caliber of the opposition and entry for the match was set at £1.50. In the end the superior fitness of the visitors proved to be their trump card. Flyers matched the Dutch goal for goal in the first two periods but the visitors, who were in the ‘A’ Pool of the World Championships, finally gained the upper hand in the final period when they proceeded to open a gap which the Fifers were unable to close. Jim Lynch got back on the goal trail (he had only not scored in his last two games but such were expectations on imports in those days) after 15 minutes to equalize the opening goal of the game scored by Holland’s Michael Jans. Scoring remained level throughout the second spell with Dougie Latto (pictured below) and Allan Anderson counting for the Flyers and Van Gerwen and Boerekamps replying for the Dutch. Flyers regained the lead less than a minute into the final period through Lynch but Molenaar was on target within 60 seconds to square matters again. The visitors scored the next two goals which marked the turning point in the game. Both came in quick succession around the 48 minute mark and the Dutch had breathing space when Trocht added to their tally in the 53rd minute. Two minutes later Lynch completed his hattrick and Flyers scoring for the night. The visitors added a further two goals with their ninth coming in the final second.
Flyers v Romanian Opposition
Fife Flyers 2 Team Romania 6
On the back of their Findus Challenge Cup win it kind of felt like the morning after the night before as the Flyers skated out on the Tuesday evening to play the Romanian National side who had also featured at Nottingham over the weekend as they had faced GB ahead of the Sunday afternoon showpiece final. GB had won that one 6-1 but the tourists were in no mood to drop another game and after the Flyers had paraded the Findus Challenge Cup the visitors raced into an early three goal lead with goals from Gergely, Nicolescu and Hozo inside ten minutes. The Flyers started with Colin Grubb in goal and also gave the opportunity for a number of their junior players to gain valuable ice time. Gary Wishart (below) finally put the Flyers on the board but this was cancelled out by Geru. There was a flurry of goals in the final five minutes when Gergerly and Geru grabbed their seconds of the night and Russell Monteith bagged a consolation.
Pic Credit – Mike Smith