Durham Wasps


Durham Wasps
Durham Wasps
League British National League
Founded 1947
Home ice Durham Ice Rink
Capacity 2860
Ice size 184ft x 85ft, 56m x 26m
City Durham, England
Colours Royal Blue and Gold
Head coach Unknown
Ownership Unknown

The Durham Wasps was an ice hockey team located in Durham and was one of England's most well-known names in ice hockey. The team was bought by Sir John Hall and moved to the neighbouring city of Newcastle Upon Tyne in August 1996. The Newcastle team, after several changes, is now known as the Newcastle Vipers.

Contents

The History of the Wasps

John Frederick James Smith known as "Icy", was a successful ice seller who decided to build an ice rink in Durham.

The rink opened sometime around 1940, and Icy relied on skaters to help out with the maintenance and protection of the rink. During wartime, men around Durham City were scarce, but there was an airbase nearby, Middleton St. George, and Canadian Airmen often came to the rink as ice hockey was very popular in Canada at that time, as it still is, and competition was a good way to boost morale.

The hockey at the rink became an attraction and there were other shows such as figure skating.

A mix of contemporary NHL superstars who were, at the time, in service with the Canadian Air Force, came to the rink. These included players such as Bobby Bauer, Woody Dumart, and Milt Schmidt.

The rink had a number of wooden beams running across the middle of the roof to serve as support. Incidentally this structure was an old circus tent, and at the time was the largest big top in Europe. This caused a number of problems for the players, though they were eventually able to adapt. Many people crowded in or around the rink, but Icy was not able to advertise the hockey due to laws by the War Office, which stated that no movement of military personnel was allowed to be advertised.

When World War II ended, many of the Canadians went home, but some remained and Durham's enthusiasm for ice hockey continued. A new rink had to be built for Durham's skaters.

The rink, when it was completed with a permanent roof on the site of the old one cost just over £64,000. Money was saved by buying in a surplus of war coffins and bought many for the rinks seating and stands. The nails going into the coffins would suggest the beginning and not the end, for the future to come.

The Durham Wasps began their prosperous start to hockey just after the war, and was started by Michael Davey of Ottawa, Canada, along with a few other Canadians, who after the war made their homes in Durham.

In the 1950s, Icy, inspired by the Wasps and the Riverside, started another ice rink at Whitley Bay, their hockey team called the Bees to start with, then the Braves, and then the Warriors, the name which still survives.

The opening at Whitley Bay started a long lasting rivalry between the two places, and Icy arranged to have games across the border with Scotland on weekends.

Ice hockey remained popular in the sixties and seventies, but it exploded with popularity between the eighties and nineties, and the period from around 1982 to 1992 was one to remember for the Wasps. In this period alone they won the Heineken Championship four times, the league championship six times, the Norwich Cup three times, and other trophies like the Autumn and Castle Eden Cups on many other occasions. The Durham Wasps dominated the British League for over 10 years.

In a few years of their greatest era, the Wasps fell into financial difficulties, and the rink as well as the Wasps were bought by John Hall, then owner of Newcastle United Football Club, in a plan to have a sporting excellency, and moved the Wasps to Sunderland, while the new rink was being built in Newcastle. A replacement team was established in Durham called the Durham City Wasps who played in the English League and attracted crowds of between 600 and 1200. After a season of playing out of the Crowtree Leisure Centre, the Newcastle United owned Wasps were taken to Newcastle to the new Telewest Arena. The Wasps were then re-named the Newcastle Cobras, and in the next few years changed hands and owners from the Cobras, to the Riverkings, to the Jesters, and the Vipers. Despite the fact that they now have nothing to do with the old club many Wasps fans still shun ice hockey in Newcastle.

The Riverside Rink closed on 8 July 1996, and re-opened as a bowling alley around a year later. The Wasps' era had finally ended. The building was earmarked for demolition following the closure of health club situated in the former rink in early 2006. The bowling alley remains open. Since 1996, a campaign for the construction of a new ice rink in County Durham has been spearheaded by the County Durham Ice Foundation, a pressure group made up of ice skaters, ice hockey fans and players.

A one-off game also took place between the Wasps and former local rivals Whitley Warriors on 4 May 2008 at Whitley Bay Ice Rink commemorating the 60th anniversary of the formation of the club, and in support of the ongoing campaign to bring back an ice rink. Over 2,300 fans turned up to witness this encounter which saw Wasps players icing once again including the Johnson brothers, Mario Belanger, Ivor Bennett, Stephen Foster, John Hutley and Karl Walker. The reformed Wasps team won the game 8-4.

New arena development

Plans were announced in August 2008 for a new arena to be built on the outskirts of Durham at Belmont. The proposed development was planned to open in December 2009 centred around a 3,000 seater olympic-sized ice rink and was hoped the venue could be ready for the 2010/11 ice hockey season, heralding a potential return of the Wasps to Durham. This project never came to fruition, but it is still hoped that an ice arena could return to Durham in the future.

Honours

Heineken Premier League Champions

  • 1985, 1986, 1989, 1991, 1992

Heineken British Championship Winners

  • 1987, 1988, 1991, 1992

Autumn Cup Winners

  • 1984, 1988, 1989, 1991

Castle Eden Cup Winners

  • 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995.

Notable Wasps players

Netminders

  • 20 United Kingdom Chris Salem
  • 29 United Kingdom Frankie Killen
  • 33 United Kingdom Stephen Foster
  • 25 United Kingdom Neil Campbell

Defencemen

  • 02 United Kingdom Dave Keirl
  • 03 United Kingdom Roly Barrass
  • 03 United Kingdom Robert Wilkinson
  • 05 United Kingdom John Hutley
  • 17 Canada Rod McNair
  • 17 Canada Mike O'Connor
  • 22 United Kingdom Paul Dixon
  • 44 Canada Chris Norton
  • 55 United Kingdom Stephen Cooper
  • 06 United Kingdom Jack Henry

Forwards

  • 01 Canada Jamie Crapper
  • 04 Canada Tim Cranston
  • 08 United Kingdom Shaun Johnson
  • 09 Canada Rick Brebant
  • 09 Canada Mario Belanger
  • 10 United Kingdom Stephen Johnson
  • 11 United Kingdom Paul Smith
  • 12 United Kingdom Anthony Johnson
  • 14 Canada Mike Blaisdell
  • 15 United Kingdom Anthony Payne
  • 16 United Kingdom Ivor Bennett
  • 18 Canada Paul Tilley
  • 25 Russia Alexander Koshevnikov
  • 36 United Kingdom Jonathan Weaver
  • 40 Canada Dan Vincellette
  • 45 Canada Gary Yaremchuk
  • 59 Canada Richard Little
  • 66 United Kingdom Ian Cooper
  • 77 United Kingdom Damian Smith
  • 81 United Kingdom Michael Tasker
  • William Graham UK, one of the first ever players

External links

Preceded by
Dundee Rockets
Premier League Champions
1984-85, 1985-86
Succeeded by
Murrayfield Racers
Preceded by
Dundee Rockets
Autumn Cup Winners
1984-85
Succeeded by
Murrayfield Racers
Preceded by
Murrayfield Racers
Playoff Champions
1986-87, 1987-88
Succeeded by
Nottingham Panthers
Preceded by
Nottingham Panthers
Autumn Cup Winners
1987-88, 1988-89
Succeeded by
Murrayfield Racers
Preceded by
Murrayfield Racers
Premier League Champions
1988-89
Succeeded by
Cardiff Devils
Preceded by
Cardiff Devils
Premier League Champions
1990-91, 1991-92
Succeeded by
Cardiff Devils
Preceded by
Cardiff Devils
Playoff Champions
1990-91, 1991-92
Succeeded by
Cardiff Devils
Preceded by
Murrayfield Racers
Autumn Cup Winners
1990-91
Succeeded by
Nottingham Panthers

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