Hull Ice Hockey History

Humberside Seahawks 1988-93

Humberside Seahawks 1988-89 (Photo courtesy of Arthur Foster)

Humberside Seahawks 1988-89 (Photo courtesy of Arthur Foster)

Founded in 1988 by the Humberside County Council, the first iteration of the Seahawks were guided by an astute GM, Adrian Florence, and Canadian player/coach, Dale Lambert.  They began their all too brief life in Heineken English League Division 2, where they developed an intense rivalry with Bracknell Bees.  Against the backdrop of these fierce contests, Humberside Seahawks became the one of most talked about clubs of the era, winning the Division 2 title and promotion in their inaugural season.

The 1989/90 season proved less fruitful in Division 1, where the Seahawk’s expected success, simply did not materialise.  Having regrouped, the 1990/91 campaign saw a return to winning ways.  Legends, the Johnson brothers, Ross and Dale Lambert and high scoring Scott Morrison, ripped up the record books on the way to winning the Division 1 title and vital promotion via the play-off group.  After just three years of existence, Humberside Seahawks had gained promotion to the Heineken League Premier Division.

The Heineken League Premier Division was no place for shrinking violets with the likes of Whitley Warriors, Durham Wasps, Nottingham Panthers and Cardiff Devils seeking to halt the Seahawks determined dash for glory.  In a gruelling but fascinating season, the Seahawks made an early impression with legendary games against reigning champions, Durham Wasps, and runners up, Cardiff Devils.  Led by seasoned bench coach, Peter Johnson, the team achieved a credible fourth place and reached the final of the Autumn Cup where they lost 5–7 to Nottingham Panthers.  It was a poignant game not just for Seahawk fans but for neutrals too as they watched from the stands at the brand new 10,000 seat Sheffield Arena: the era of stadium ice hockey had begun.  Injuries disrupted the latter part of Humberside’s season, signalling the breakup of the record-breaking 1991/92 side.

Leading up to the 1992/93 season, turmoil prevailed as Ross Lambert was replaced as coach by Peter Johnson even before a puck was dropped.  ‘Jonka’ inherited a side that had notable individuals such as Dale Lambert, Mike Bishop and his three sons but as a squad, it rarely gelled.  Even when the enigmatic Dan Dorion was recruited, still one of the most revered players ever to pull on a Humberside jersey, consistency seemed to elude them.  A disappointing finishing position of seventh in the league was at least punctuated by some silverware following a 6–5 victory over the Durham Wasps to win the Castle Eden Cup.

Moving into the end of season playoffs, stuttering form hardly inspired fans confidence in reaching Wembley for the first time.  Defying the odds, as games progressed momentum developed.  Following gritty performances against the Bees and Whitley Warriors, the Seahawks created history as the first seventh place team in the regular season to reach the finals weekend at Wembley Arena.

Of the many memorable games that defined the Seahawk’s era, the semi-final against Nottingham Panthers has to rank as high as any.  On paper, this appeared to be a mismatched contest but in the third period, Humberside unexpectedly led 4–2.  With the finishing line in sight, fate dealt a deadly blow.  A section of the Plexi-glass broke and the ensuing 25-minute stoppage in play allowed the Panthers to calm their collective nerve.

Leaving their dressing room led by a raging bull in the form of Graham Waghorn, the Panthers blazed away until the game tied at 4–4.  Overtime saw Nottingham confirm the formbook predictions, completely dominating play and it appeared only a matter of time before they scored the winning goal.  Nevertheless, even with a defence suffering heavy injuries, the Seahawks remained defiant, inspired by the heroics of netminder Frankie Killen.  Nottingham forward, Paul Adey, one of the leading players of his day, simply could not find a way to beat the former Durham keeper.  Pushing ever further forward, the Panthers turned over the puck to their former hero, Dan Dorion.  Alongside him, Kevin McNaught skated towards the Panthers’ zone.  Almost every Seahawks’ fan urged Dorion to shoot but instead he laid on a perfect pass to McNaught who beat the Panthers’ netminder and scored the sudden death winner to send the Seahawks into the final.

Dale Lambert, player and coach of the Humberside Seahawks, player for Kingston Hawks and later, Hull Thunder. (Photo courtesy of Arthur Foster)

Dale Lambert, player and coach of the Humberside Seahawks, player for Kingston Hawks and later, Hull Thunder. (Photo courtesy of Arthur Foster)

The previous day’s epic struggle told badly on the Seahawks as they faced the formidable Cardiff Devils who had cruised to an easy victory in their semi-final against Murrayfield.  A comfortable 7–4 victory over the Seahawks was a sad end to such a loved and respected club.  It may have been a brief era but few in the world of UK ice hockey could have been so impressive.  At the final whistle, Humberside fans sang forlornly to their players and said farewell to this truly great club.

  • 1988/89 English League 2, English Cup and Promotion Playoff Champions
  • 1989/90 Autumn Trophy winners
  • 1990/91 Heineken Division One Champions, Norwich Union Cup Semi-finalists and Promotion Playoff Champions
  • 1991/92 Autumn Cup Finalist
  • 1992/93 End of Season Playoff Finalists
  • Colours:  black/white/yellow and black/white/silver-grey

Humberside Hawks 1993–96

The legendary Stephen ‘Quacks’ Johnson, here pictured playing for the Humberside Hawks. Uniquely, Stephen played for The Humberside Seahawks, Humberside Hawks, Kingston Hawks, Hull Thunder and ended his senior playing days at Hull Stingrays. (Photo courtesy of Arthur Foster)

British Aerospace became the main sponsor of Humberside Hawks in 1993.  A new logo and colours accompanied the name change from Seahawks to Hawks.  Little is spoken about the Hawks, possibly because the new club supplanted the much loved Seahawks.

It seemed that uncertainty continued to stalk the future of the club despite stable ownership and sponsorship.  However, in the pantheon of Hull ice hockey clubs, the Hawks stand as proud as any Hull team.  In their first season, the Hawks welcomed back many old faces including Coached Peter Johnson.  Alongside the likes of Frank Killen, Brian Cox, Mike Bishop and the Johnson brothers, Mike O’Connor was recruited along with Ukrainians, Alexei Kuznetsov and Alexandr Koulikov.  Even Dan Dorion returned for a brief spell.  However, there was little progress to show for the Hawks’ rebuilding process and the new era started to turn sour by 1995.

The 1995-96 season promised much but started poorly, once again.  It signified the end of the Johnson dynasty, with the brothers moving to Newcastle Wasps and the departure of their father, Peter.  John Griffith took over Jonka’s role until uncertainty swept through the club when it was announced that Humberside County Council was to be abolished and the team’s funding with it.  Unexpectedly, the news served to fund a spree of new signings to create a squad that still ranks as one of the best ever to grace the ice in Hull.  In front of netminder, John Wolfe, there was a galaxy of stars including Mike Bishop, Graham Garden, Phil Huber, Barclay Pearce, Scott Young and ex-NHLers Derek Laxdal and Bruce Bell.  Despite an impressive squad, the Hawks only attained 5th place in the BHL, resulting in the dismissal of Griffith before the play-offs.  Former Bracknell Bees coach, Keith Milhench, took over the reins, leading the Hawks through the playoffs and onto Wembley where their dream ended in a 3–6 semi-final defeat to arch-rivals Sheffield.  Once again, Humberside fans waved their team goodbye at Wembley, not knowing whether they would see a return of ice hockey let alone the glory days they had enjoyed since 1988.

  • 1995/96 BHL Autumn Cup Finalist and BHL End of Season Playoff Finalists
  • Colours: red/blue/white/grey & red/blue/white

Leading the Hawks through

Kingston Hawks 1996-99

Taking their place in the EPIHL under franchise owner Keith Milhench, the Kingston Hawks introduced yet another new name and kit, black and yellow replacing the former red, white and blue of the Humberside Hawks.  These were uncertain times and so it proved when the club struggled financially by Christmas.  What appeared to be a reasonable squad for British hockey’s second tier, soon turned into an under-performing team but Finnish reinforcements brought a fresh fortune.  Joining alongside the likes of ‘Tommy’ Uusitalo was Pasi Raitanen, one of the most liked players in Hull ice hockey history.  Supporting by a firm spine of UK players, including Damian Smith, Andy Steel, Norman Pinnington and the returning Stephen Johnson, the Hawks surprisingly regrouped and finished strongly but made little final impression on standings.

The 1997-98 campaign showed a marked improvement.  Arguably, it provided a platform for the glittering career of Ashley Tait, who started as a developing player and ended the season with 139 points.  Alongside fellow Brits, Michael Tasker, Ian Defty and Anthony Payne, Tait formed a formidable partnership with the under-appreciated Steve Smillie, supported by player /coach, Kelly Reid.  Bench coached by Bobby McEwen, the team broke through to the BNL playoff in Hull, where they lost in the final to Guildford Flames.

On paper, the 1998-99 squad seemed the strongest squad yet assembled for the Hawk’s campaign.  However, the promise inspired by the acquisition of Steve Nemeth soon evaporated with the departure of the once revered Steeler.  Many old faces returned including Dale Lambert but neither they nor new additions such as Stefan Simoes and Simon Leach could halt the decline into 6th place in the league.  To add salt to the wounds of a club that rarely captured fan’s faith, and what was set to become an all too familiar fate for future Hull clubs, the Hawks went out of business at the end of the season, amid controversy.

  • 1997/98 BNL End of Season Playoff Finalists
  • Colours: black/white/yellow

Hull Thunder 1999-2003

Under the guidance of former GM, Adrian Florence, Hull Thunder started a new era unaware of just far the fallout from the demise of the Kingston Hawks would cast a long shadow.  Coach Don Depoe assembled an impressive team with some familiar returning faces such as brothers, Stephen and Anthony Johnson and new stars including Kevin Conway, Steve Morden and Chris Kelland.  As the early season progressed, the Thunder performed well, when an unfortunate series of unforeseeable events, beyond the club’s control, plunged finances into crisis.  Within weeks, unpaid players departed the club and commenced a spiral culminating in a potential strike.  After re-shaping, the club recovered to record 20 league wins but crashed out of the British National League playoffs, belying their initial season top placed ranking.

A remodelled Thunder, wearing shirts of white, black and purple, approached the 2000/01 season seemingly with its troubles left behind.  UK ice hockey legends, Ron Shudra (player / coach), Tommy Plommer and Stephen Cooper were recruited, along with Corey Lyons, Aaron Cain and emerging Hull star, Ryan Lake.  Yet the season ended poorly with the arrayed stars never seeming to gel.

Mike Bishop returned as player / coach the following season but his small squad, with a bewildering turnaround of eleven netminders, performed even worse.  Despite the disappointment, and emerging from the entertaining sideshow that became Rob McCaig, a Hull legend was discovered; giant defender, Eric ‘Big E’ Lavigne.

In their final year and after numerous changes in ownership, the death knell rang for the unlucky Thunder.  Mike Bishop was replaced as coach by Peter Johnson after several games.  Nevertheless, even Jonka could not achieve a miracle with a team that failed to blend, even with the likes of former NHLer, Dan Currie, in its ranks.  As money began to run out, imports left by the drove with one of the last being Big E.  One of the hardest players in the BNL departed under floods of tears as fans chanted his name for the last time – he has never been forgotten for his heroics or his huge character.  The campaign ended with virtually a full British team of veterans and youngsters (including Ben O’Connor) being beaten every week by cricket scores.  Ron Shudra, to his credit, hung around to give everything his aging body could to the cause.  Cheered on by a crowd caught by the romance of their young player’s bravery, this was the lowest ebb in Hull hockey yet one of its proudest moments.

  • Colours: White/Black/Purple

Hull Stingrays 2003-2015

One of the all-time Hull greats: Jereme Tendler

The Stingrays remain Hull’s longest franchise, spanning twelve years under three ownerships.  Mike and Sue Pack will be remembered affectionately as not just the founders of the franchise but two of the most decent owners to be associated with the club.  Dressed in white and teal shirts, their first campaign proved difficult with only four wins out of thirty-six BNL league games.  It was a disappointing end of career for Stephen Johnson who finally hung up his skates having played for every Hull franchise to date.  He captained a team coached by Rick Strachan.  His squad contained brothers, Dave and Kevin Phillips, Mark Florence and a strong contingent of skilful Ukrainians including Nikolayev, Timchenko and Gomeniuk.  In the figure of Yevgeni Alipov, an unlikely hero emerged for a crowd that had little to cheer.

Backstopped by Ladislav Kudrna, there was a slight improvement in the 2004/05 campaign with Jeff Glowa being the top points scorer.

Following the collapse of the fondly remembered BNL, the Stingrays competed in the EPIHL 2005/06, expecting to dominate what effectively was a ‘lower’ league.  A combination of complacency and the rawness of the EPIHL left coach Strachan bewildered by the challenge, an EPIHL Final loss being his only consultation.

The EPIHL was an unhappy place for the Stingrays and in the 2006/07 season, the Packs moved their club to the EIHL, knowing that this was a league of big spending clubs.  It proved a step too far and resulted in only 18 wins from 54 games.  Although they progressed to the semi-final of the EIHL Cup, the Stingrays failed to reach the playoffs.  Once again, Jeff Glowa led the scoring in what was a team bereft of goals.

The love affair with Ukrainian players ended for coach Strachan in the 2007–08 season.  Instead, he turned to North Americans such as Bryce ThomaPaul CabanaRob RankinBrad PattersonJake Riddle and Garry Luini.  This change in recruitment strategy did not deliver on promise and the Stingrays finished last place.  The following campaign was equally poor, with Hull again finishing outside the playoffs for the third year in a row.  This time, failure signalled the end of coach Strachan’s tenure.  His replacement was future Stingrays legend, Sylvain Cloutier, a former Coventry player.

Under Coach Cloutier, the Stingrays finished 8th in the 2009–10 Elite League season, gaining 43 points from 56 games, finishing only 3 points behind the 7th place Newcastle Vipers.  It was the highest points tally that the team achieved since becoming the Stingrays in 2003.

Shortly before the 2010–11 EIHL season, club owners Mike and Sue Pack announced that they had to relinquish ownership of the Stingrays due to financial issues.  However, six days later a takeover by Elite League rivals Coventry Blaze was confirmed, enabling the club to take its place in the 2010–11 season.  The new ownership, even though commercially successful fell under heavy suspicion from elements of the Hull fan base who were uncomfortable that they were owned by a competitor.

Financial difficulties were compounded by a late start to the 2010–11 season.  Towards the season’s end, the now blue and yellow shirted Stingrays played 10 games in 20 days yet they reached a respectable 7th-place in the Elite League.  Except for the Cardiff Devils, they beat every team in the EIHL at least once, recording memorable victories over Nottingham Panthers.  Sadly, the optimism generated by a late flourish in form did not transfer to the playoff quarter-finals where the Devils dispatched the Stingrays 8–4 on aggregate.

The 2011–12 pre-season saw a much sharper Stingrays team with Cloutier getting a tighter grip upon his role.  Jereme Tendler, one of the best players ever to pull on a Hull shirt, was outstanding in his attacking role, ably supported by the likes of Derek Campbell and defensive lynchpin, Kurtis Dulle.  Surprisingly, the Stingrays set off on a flying start, lifting the P&O Ferries Cup and registering impressive home victories.  Although they remained frustratingly inconsistent, they qualified for the playoffs in 7th place and like the Seahawks, unexpectedly made it through the group stage, this time after a stunning triumph over Sheffield Steelers.  In what appeared a repeat of the Humberside Seahawks swansong, the Stingrays met Nottingham in the semi-final but this time, they succumbed 10-6 to a rampant Panthers, who emerged playoffs champions.

2012-13 saw another change of ownership for the Hull Stingrays.  Former Hull player and Assistant Coach, Bobby McEwen, surprisingly emerged from an ownership group as the sole proprietor.  New ownership could not reverse the fortunes of a club now seemingly playing at a level out of its depth.  A return of 17 wins from 52 games saw the Stingrays once again slump to the wooden spoon in the league standings.  Whilst the campaign was an unhappy hunting ground, Ben Bowns could be proud of his 90.6 average.  Once again, Tendler was the standout player and leading goal scorer in the league.

Under Coach Cloutier, the Seahawks showed a marked improvement for the 2013-14 season, finishing 8th in a ten-team league and registering a 50% win ratio.  Ironically, two Stingrays made it into the top 5 points league scorers, Tendler this time being beaten by teammate, Guillaume Doucet who finished a credible second overall.

It was apparent that by the end of the 2013-14, there was deep-rooted disgruntlement amongst fans and staff of the Stingrays.  Pre-season, a takeover bid threatened to dislodge McEwen but he retained the support of the EIHL and re-shaped his team for the forthcoming campaign.  Coach Cloutier was dismissed, much to the dismay of his loyal fans who were tearful at his farewell party.  Replacing the Hull and Coventry legend with Omar Pacha, a rooky coach, appeared a risky move.  Pacha recruited talented young Brits included Captain, Matty Davies, Sam Towner, Jamie Chilcott and Thomas Stubley.  Experienced imports such as Yan Turcotte and Carl Lauzon joined former Stingrays, Gomenuik and Dominic Osman.  Despite his lack of experience, Pacha managed the Stingrays to 7th place in the league and in keeping with the legend surrounding this position, Hull qualified for the semi-finals of the end-of-season playoffs but failed to progress.  It was a remarkable achievement for such a young player/coach.  Nevertheless, within weeks, the club’s ownership floundered, as many predicted, and the oldest franchise in Hull was no more.

  • 2011/12 EIHL End of Season Playoff semi-finalists
  • 2014/15 EIHL End of Season Playoff Semi-finalists
  • Colours: white/tea, and blue/yellow

Hull Pirates 2015-2020

Only weeks remained before the start of the 2015 when Shane Smith, former owner of the Sheffield Steeldogs, acquired the rights to ice a team in Hull.  His club entered the EPIHL, coached by former Stingray, Dominic Osman.  It was a tall order to recruit a team at such short notice but Osman, who returned midway through his honeymoon to take the reins, achieved his goal to survive the campaign, albeit finishing in 9th position.

2016/17 was the last ever EPIHL season and proved to be an inauspicious one for Hull, who achieved 7th place out of 10 teams.  There were notable performances from the likes of Andrej Themar, Nathan Salem and new recruit, Jason Hewitt but a revolving door of netminders undermined any progress the Pirates should have made.

Jason Hewitt took the coaches job for the 2017/18 campaign and began to shape a team for the future whilst playing in NIHL.  2nd place in the league and losing Conference Semi-finalists was a reasonable return but not quite good enough for one of the high-end spending teams.

The 2018/19 Pirates season ranks as one of, if not the greatest in the annals of Hull ice hockey history.  Guided by prolific scorer, player/coach Hewitt, his side attacked the National League North Division with gusto.  In defence, Jonathan Kirk led the line alongside former Hull player, Kevin Phillips.  Leading the forward line, Bobby Chamberlain and Matty Davies developed a lethal partnership.

Until December, conference triumph appeared assured but a poor run in form toward the end of the year left too many question marks.  Having initially struggled to adapt, Swede, Sonny Karlsson proved to be an astute signing and became the most influential player in the league.  His upturn in form, particularly towards the end of the season, helped secure the Northern Conference title, the Northern Conference Playoff title and a place in the end of season playoffs.  In a dramatic game in which Karlsson left the ice with an upper lip split in half, fortunes swung back and forth between Hull and Peterborough.  On his return, Hull surged forward but were pushed into overtime.  Davies and Chamberlain combined to score the winner after determined work from Lee Haywood: the triple was secured and the Hull crowd at last cheered the return of the glory days.

Given their success the previous year, it was surprising to see the Pirates remodel their squad.  Gone was Karlsson and fellow import Korhon.  The nucleus of British players remained but the team stuttered until COVID struck and the season ended prematurely.  What happened thereafter may never be known but due to repairs at the Hull Arena and a lack of will on the part of the owner, the Pirates seemed to almost evaporate without trace.  They failed to return for the next two seasons, blighted by COVID and repair to their rink and eventually, were replaced in 2022 by the Hull Seahawks.

  • 2017/18 Conference Semi-finalists
  • 2018/19 Northern Conference, Northern Playoff and National Champions
  • Colours: black/white/green