Blackburn Hawks
City: Blackburn, Lancashire, United Kingdom
League: English National Ice Hockey League
Division: North 1
Founded: 1990
Home Arena: Blackburn Arena
Colors: White, Red and Gold


Owner(s): Peel Holdings
General Manager: Andy Slater
Head Coach: Neil Abel
Franchise history
1990 - 1992: Blackhawks
1992 - 1997: Blackburn Hawks
1997 - 1998: Lancashire Hawks
1998 - Date: Blackburn Hawks
Regular Season Titles: 1995 - 1996

The Blackburn Hawks (formerly the Blackhawks and the Lancashire Hawks), are a British ice hockey team based in Blackburn, Lancashire. They are currently members of the ENIHL, and have previously played in the British National League and the English League Premier Division. Their home ice is the 3,200 seat Blackburn Arena.

History[edit | edit source]

The Blackhawks Era[edit | edit source]

The Blackburn Blackhawks logo

The Blackhawks played their first game on 28 October 1990, in which the Blackhawks defeated Oxford City Stars 6–3[1]. The game was played as a non-import challenge match, where no professional players born outside of the United Kingdom were iced. During the 1990–91 season that followed, all Blackhawks games were played away, since the newly built Blackburn Arena had not yet been completed. The first home game, on 26 January 1991, coincidently also resulted in a 6–3 victory against Oxford. The first goal scored at the Arena was by the Blackhawks' Dan Holden, an offensive defenceman who accrued a total of 116 points over the course of the season. The Blackhawks highest points scorer in 1990–91 was Fred Perlini, who contributed 132 points (83 goals and 49 assists) in just 21 games[2]. Other notable players were Trevor Fostor, Georgie Powell and Paul Fleury. Under manager Keith Purvis and coach Pete Murray, the Blackhawks finished fourth place in the English League Division One, and received a promotion due to the collapse of Solihull in the Heineken League.

A promising start to the 1991–92 season saw ex-Toronto Maple Leafs coach Doug McKay take over the running of the team. However, his tenure was short-lived due to financial problems, and soon the Blackhawks were left without a manager. By the end of the season the Blackhawks were relegated back into the English League Division One.

Building to league success[edit | edit source]

In 1992–93, the team began to rebuild under the new name of the Blackburn Hawks. Canadian Glenn Knight took up the reins as player-coach, but soon passed the responsibility to the new addition to the team, ex-AHL forward Steve Moria. The team's financial situation was improved following a buy out by Peel Holdings, the firm owning the site on which Blackburn Arena is situated. This change in financial status allowed for an influx of new imports.

The Hawks competed well and fought hard until the last weekend of the season, just missing out on a play-off spot. The early season demolition of the Milton Keynes Kings was not only the greatest shock defeat of the season, but made the Hawks a feared and recognised team.

It has been dubbed a "tremendous season and certainly one that the Hawks's faithful should remember for a long time to come"[3] and indeed is taken to be the birth of competitive hockey in Blackburn.

Prior to the start of the 1994–95 season, the Hawks were again left in turmoil due to the sudden departure of Steve Moria for the Swindon Wildcats. Inexperienced forward Mark Stokes volunteered himself for the role of player-coach. This season was the year of the Hawks' most disastrous B&H Cup campaign so far, with six successive defeats but the Hawks headlined for other reasons.

The British Ice Hockey Association imposed bans on the new imports Sverre Sears, Matt Zilinskas and Jeff Winstanley after they appeared on the front page of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph following a late night naked skating session. This led to their dismissal from the club, and prompted a shakeup in staffing. Ex-Toronto Maple Leaf Rocky Saganiuk arrived, promising the fans spot in the playoffs. Sangiuk brought in Trent Casey, Darren Durdle and Tony Cimellaro, but the Hawk's leaky defence contributed to their relegation to Division Two come the end of the season. However, a last minute re-structure of the league meant that the team began the new season back in division one.

Before the 1995–96 campaign began, it became apparent that Saganiuk was not to return, electing to stay in Canada. Under the management of Mike Cockayne, the Hawks secured sponsorship with Thwaites Beer, and began the season sporting new look red, black and yellow uniforms.

For the first time, the Hawks took top place in the league, with the most important result being a 12–9 victory over the newlyformed Manchester Storm. The match was played at the Nynex Arena in front of a then record-breaking crowed of 9,500, and watched by millions on Sky TV, in what was the first live UK hockey match to be shown on satellite television in the UK. Later in the season the Hawks again visited the Nynex Arena in a league title decider that generated another British attendance record of 16,280.

The Northern Premier League[edit | edit source]

The Lancashire Hawks logo

The 1996–97 season gave the Hawks yet another new coach in Jim Pennycook, one of the most experienced players in the British game. The season saw the start of the well televised Ice Hockey Superleague, which ultimately split British ice hockey teams according to their financial position. Blackburn were not part of this new wave, and instead competed in the Northern Premier League of the BNL, which was limited to three imports.

The Hawks' difficulties began right at the start of the season, losing two of their three imports before the end of November. Pennycook played most of the season through injury and suffered from a very depleted roster after Christmas with only eight players available for some games. They quickly made a couple of new signings before the transfer deadline, and finish the season in a mid table position.

For the 1997–98 season another name change was brought in, with the intention of promoting the team across the County; thus the Lancashire Hawks were born. However, attendances failed to improve, and many fans expressed disapproval of the new name.

A number of staffing issues, injuries and roster changes saw the Hawks finish bottom of the league and last in the play-offs.

The Bobby Haig Era[edit | edit source]

At the start of the 1998–99 season, the team found themselves competing in yet another new league, the English League Premier Division. This was a league set up for teams that wanted to compete effectively, but on a smaller budget than those in the British National League. The Hawks competed against teams such as Solihull, Swindon and Milton Keynes, and reverted back to the previous name, the Blackburn Hawks, thanks to the pressure put on the management team at the Supporters Club annual general meeting that took place in the Arena bar in May 1998.

Jim Pennycook was invited back to the Arena in a playing capacity but Arena management were to look elsewhere for a coach this season. An experienced Scotsman came to the helm, brother of former Hawk John, Bobby Haig was the man charged with bringing back the teams' former glory.

The season started with a convincing win over the Wightlink Raiders, with a 13–1 scoreline. A successful 1998 was followed by controversy at the beginning of 1999, when it emerged that the team had spent three times their seasons budget by Christmas. Five players were released from their contracts at this point to try to ease the financial burden on the club, including import Chad Brandimore and club captain Simon Mills. By mid March the team were floundering in the league, and it became clear that the team would not be taking part in the end of season play-offs due to their financial problems. However, this did not deter the fans, as almost 1,500 watched a 10–9 victory over Chelmsford and a close 7–6 defeat to the hands of Milton Keynes at the close of the league campaign. The victory over Chelmsford meant that this season's team had won more home games than any previous year since the teams formation in 1991.

With the financial problems at the end of the season came the obvious worries and rumours over the clubs future. Some feared that Blackburn would not host competitive ice hockey team in 1999–2000 campaign, and sections of the press were reporting that the team had been threatened with expulsion from the league for refusing to take part in the playoffs.

It was decided to drop into English League Division One again; a decision which prompted a mixed reaction from fans, largely due to the lack of skilled import players in the league. To boost the number of games that the team played they also signed up for the Border League, consisting of teams from Scotland and northern England. Under the leadership of Haig, the Hawks just missed out on a play-off place at the end of the season.

The 2000–1 saw the Hawks still guided by Bobby Haig, and playing in the English National Ice Hockey League (the new name for ED1). The season started with many ups and downs, ranging from 14–1 defeat at the hands of the Kingston Jets, to a 14–0 victory over the Bradford Bulldogs, and all before Christmas. In this time the team also retained the North West Cup at the expense of the Altrincham Aces. However, on January 27 2001, the Aces gained their revenge, knocking Blackburn out of the English Cup. The team ultimately finished fourth in the league.

April 3 2001 saw the Blackburn Hawks celebrate their 10th Anniversary in style, with the return of Steve Moria and many former players. The game, where Bobby Haig's All Stars played Steve Moria's Select ended 8–9 in favour of Moria's squad[4]. The match, which attracted a crowd of over 1,000, raised £4,000 for the NSPCC[5]

The 2001–2 season was far from successful for the Hawks, who ultimately finished fourth in the ENIHL North Division.[6]. The team also lost all six games played in the ENIHL Cup, and did not make it past group stages in English cup. This season set precedent for the Hawks, and subsequent seasons seem to follow a pattern; a place in the league's top 5, a reasonable performance in the cup, and Bobby Haig as the team's top scorer.

In 2002–3 it was 5th in league, and just missing out on the final of the English National Premier Cup by placing second in qualifying table. This close brush with cup success was not matched in the Northern Cup, where the Hawk's did not with a single game.

After a no point weekend mid season, it seemed that Haig attributed the team's lack of success to an absence of young blood on the team, saying "We had no Under 19s and we also found it difficult to raise our game after the disappointment of (an 8–2 defeat at) Sheffield. Perhaps we need an injection of some new players. It's been a bad weekend and I have got some serious thinking to do."[7]

One of Haig's new young player's was 19 year old Richard Hulme, who debuted in a challenge match against Spartak Durham[8]. Hulme, a product of the Hawks youth teams, was to be involved in a controversial incidenent.

In October 2003, minutes from the end of an under 19 game against the Altrincham Tigers, Hulme was attacked and injured by Tigers' player Robert Brownbill. Hulme lost two teeth and received a broken jaw when hit with a stick during the game. In January 2003 Brownbill appeared before Preston Crown Court, charged with assaulting Richard Hulme causing actual bodily harm[9]. In what was the first case of its kind in the country, Brownbill was initially remanded on bail on what was to become a test case for the sport[10]. Brownbill was eventually fined £250[11].

As predicted, by the end of the season Bobby Haig was the team's top scorer (4th in league) with 56 points in just 18 games. (Interestingly, the 3 scorers above Haig were all from league winners Altrincham[12]).

A new logo and a new start[edit | edit source]

The Blackburn Hawks logo (2003 onwards)

The 2003–04 season had a positive start; a new logo, a new strip, a renewed sponsorship contract with Thwaites Brewery, and a clutch of upcoming young players left Haig and new team captain Neil Haworth in high spirits before the first game[13]. The team's preparations paid off; the first weekend of the season consisted of a 13 - 2 win over the Bradford Bulldogs, and another 20 - 3 victory against the Grimsby Buffaloes[14]

However, this success wasn't to continue through the season. The Hawks attained a 4th position in the league, lost every game in the Premier Cup and finished second in playoffs table, missing out on the final[6]. Despite all of this, Bobby Haig continued to flourish at Blackburn, and posted another great season with 52 points in 18 games (5th points scorer in the league).

The following season, despite initial optimism[15], held much of the same for the Hawks. A series of poor results led to pressure being placed on player/coach Haig, and the Scot contemplated taking his experience elsewhere. However, after talks with the Arena management and club owners, Haig settled on staying at the expense of his job as duty manager and as the junior ice hockey development director, in order to concentrate fully on the coaching of the senior team[16].

By mid-November the team had no chance to progress in the Premier Cup, but had more success in the league, sitting comfortable at the top of the North division. Their championship hopes were boosted when a 4–2 loss against the Swindon Wildcats was recorded as a 5 - 0 victory by the EIHA after Swindon fielded an ineligible player.

The team finished 3rd in ENIHL[6], which did not allow them to progress through to the playoff group stages. The Hawks also lost every game in ENIHL cup.

2005–06 held similar successes; a third place in the ENHL[6] which, due to an altering of the playoff format, led them to the group stages. However, despite placing second in the playoff group stages table, the Hawks did not make it to the final. Other cup competitions had mixed successes; the team made the semi-final of ENIHL Cup (where they lost 7 - 5 to Cardiff), yet finished bottom of group C in the Premier Cup.

The following season heralded a change in the Hawks usual pattern; they finished 5th in ENIHL (missing out on playoffs), 5th in Northern League, and missed out on the playoffs in ENIHL cup on goal difference[6]. However, for the first season in a while, the team's top scorer was not Bobby Haig, but David Meikle, with 35 points in 16 games.

The Blackburn Hawks jersey (2008/9 season)

The Modern Era[edit | edit source]

The start of the 2007 season saw the departure of legend Bobby Haig to his former club, the Braehead Pirates[17] Coaching duties were taken over by Ian Hough and John Dunford.

In a mixed season, the club had no success in the ENIHL cup, and finished the season bottom of Northern League and 6th in ENIHL North[6]. Despite this, some good performances were given by the team; the superb combination of Rick Bentham and David Meikle score 48 and 46 points respectively. The goaltenders also had a good season; in 21 games Daniel Brittle posted a 90.03% save percentage, while Ian Thirkettle attained 89.08% in 18 games.

Following the addition of three teams to the ENIHL in 2008–09, the league was restructured. It was given the a four division structure; North 1 and 2, South 1 and 2, with promotion and relegation between the two sides. The Hawks competed in the North 1 division and did not compete in the Northern League this season. Under coach Neil Abel, the Hawks finished next from last in ENIHL North 1, and were involved in a relegation series against fellow local side Manchester Phoenix ENL[18]. After a close run first leg at the Blackburn Arena, the Hawks lost 8–7, making it 10–9 on aggregate. Following this defeat, the team would originally have played in ENL North 2 for the 2009/10 season, however Billingham Bombers dropped out of the league, saving Blackburn from relegation.

25th anniversary commemorative logo

Colours and Origin[edit | edit source]

The clubs colours were initially similar to the red, white and black of the Chicago Blackhawks, due to the similarities in name. However, upon his arrival in 1992 Steve Moria changed the colours to teal, grey, black and white[19], a similar scheme to that of the San Jose Sharks. This change coincided with the change in name. In 1994, following the departure of Moria, the club adopted a red, white and gold scheme which can still be seen today.

Players from the Blackburn Hawks and Flintshire Freeze Ice Hockey teams fight during a English National Ice Hockey League game

The Arena and Fan Base[edit | edit source]

Blackburn Arena supports 3,200 spectators seated at each side of the ice, with standing room on the balcony behind the goal.[20]. The rink is measured as 60m x 30m (197ft x 98ft).[21]

Home matches attract an average of around 400 fans.

The team is supported by the Blackburn Hawks Supporters Club (known as The Mohawks), which organises regular events for fans.[22]

Rivalries[edit | edit source]

The club's biggest rivalry was formerly with the Trafford Metros, due to the proximity of Blackburn Arena and the old Altrincham Ice Rink in Broadheath, Greater Manchester. Many of the original Hawks played in Altrincham, which resulted in a fierce rivalry both on and off the ice.

More recent ongoing feuds have been with Flintshire Freeze and the Billingham Bombers.

Season-by-season Record[edit | edit source]

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes. This list only shows most recent seasons.

Season League GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs/Post-season
2004/05 ENIHL (North Division) 16 9 5 2 20 110 62 NA 3rd in division 3rd of 4 in playoff group stage
2005/06 ENIHL (North Division) 14 9 4 1 19 82 42 NA 3rd in division 2nd of 4 in playoff group stage
2006/07 ENIHL (North Division) 18 9 7 2 20 108 81 NA 5th in division Did not make playoffs
2007/08 ENIHL (North Division) 22 12 7 3 27 110 66 NA 6th in division Did not make playoffs
2008/09 ENIHL (North Division 1) 28 7 19 2 16 71 101 NA 7th of 8 in division Relegation*

Honoured Members[23][edit | edit source]

  • 1994/95, Darren Durdle,Paul Hannant British League Division One Allstar
  • 1995/96, Steve Chartrand, British League Division One Allstar
  • 1995/96, Ryan Kummu, British League Division One Allstar

Head Coaches[edit | edit source]

  • 1990-91 Pete Murray
  • 1991-92 Doug McKay
  • 1992-94 Steve Moria
  • 1994-95 Mark Stokes & Rocky Saganiuk
  • 1995-96 Ryan Kummu
  • 1996-98 Jim Pennycook
  • 1998-07 Bobby Haig
  • 2007-08 Ian Hough & John Dunford
  • 2008-09 Neil Abel & Les Millie

Team Captains[edit | edit source]

  • 1995-96 John Haig
  • 1996-97 Neil Abel
  • 1997-98 Neil Abel & Simon Mills
  • 1998-99 Simon Mills
  • 2002-03 Gordon Whyte
  • 2004-06 Neal Haworth
  • 2006-08 Michael Brunton

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1990 / 1991 Season, Oxford City Stars Ice Hockey Club (accessed March 23 2009)
  2. 1990-91 Blackburn Blackhawks [BHL player statistics], (accessed March 23 2009)
  3. Blackburn Hawks 10th Anniversary Challenge Match, The Blackburn Citizen (accessed March 17 2009)
  4. Frozen Assets, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, May 30 2001 (last accessed March 26 2009)
  5. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 EIHA Hockey Stats, last updated March 16 2009
  6. Haig Boss has thinking to do, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, October 9 2002 (accessed March 26 2009)
  7. Hawks Outspark Spartak, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, December 27 2002 (accessed March 26 2009)
  8. Assault Alleged during Ice Hocky Match, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, January 11 2003 (accessed March 26 2009)
  9. 'Test Case' Hockey Charge Man Bailed, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, February 3 2003 (accessed March 26 2009)
  10. Ice hockey attacker fined, BBC News, February 5 2004 (accessed March 26 2009)
  11. ENHL NORTHERN CONFERENCE, Malcolm Preen, 2003 (accessed March 23 2009)
  12. Haig confident new look Hawks will fly, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, September 2 2003 (accessed March 26 2009)
  13. Hawks off to a flying start, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, September 10 2003 (accessed March 26 2009)
  14. Hawks' confidence is soaring, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, Sept 18 2004 (accessed March 29 2003)
  15. Haig looks to stem the tide, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, November 6 2004 (accessed March 29 2003)
  16. PIRATES History, Official history of the Braehead Pirates.
  17. Blackburn Hawks in relegation trouble, The Lancashire Telegraph (accessed March 20 2009)
  18. A to Z Encyclopaedia of Ice Hockey - Bl, updated July 22 2008 (accessed March 23 2009)
  19. The Hawks Nest, Tony Preece, July 2000 (accessed March 20 2009)
  20. Blackburn Arena, National Ice Skating Association (accessed March 20 2009)
  21. Blackburn Hawks, Match Day Programme vs Manchester Phoenix ENL, March 22 2009
  22. All Star Teams, Ice Hockey Journalists UK (accessed March 21 2009)
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