Bracknell Bees
Bracknell Bees logo.png
City: Bracknell, Berkshire, England
League: English Premier Ice Hockey League
Founded: 1987
Head Coach: Claude Dumas

The Bracknell Bees are an ice hockey team from Bracknell, Berkshire, UK.

History[edit | edit source]

Early years[edit | edit source]

The Bracknell Bees were formed in 1987, under the ownership of John Nike OBE. Bees began life in the Heineken League Division Two, under the leadership of former Durham Wasps and Nottingham Panthers forward, Jamie Crapper, where they finished 6th. The following season, Heineken withdrew their sponsorship of the second division, which was re-named the English League Division 1. Bees narrowly missed out on the championship to the Humberside Seahawks, but then won the league the following season, gaining promotion to the Heineken League Division 1. Having finished third, behind Humberside and the Slough Jets, Bees progressed to the top tier of British hockey, the Heineken Premier Division, via the play-offs, alongside the Seahawks.

Once at the top, it was a struggle and Bees were regularly mid-table or below, before eventually being relegated in 1995, under the leadership of Mike Urquhart.

New beginning[edit | edit source]

That sparked a new beginning for the club. Urquhart left and was replaced by Jim Fuyarchuck, who re-installed the feel-good factor at the Hive (Nick-name of the Bees home, the John Nike Leisuresport Complex) Bees again finished third in the first division (No longer sponsored by Heineken) but this time, they missed out to Milton Keynes Kings in the promotion play-offs.

However, this did not matter, as the following season saw the formation of a new league - The Ice Hockey Superleague (ISL) which was the country's first fully professional league since the 1950s.

Bees were expected to be one of the smaller teams in this big league, playing against teams with big arenas. However, a creditable 6th of 8 was followed by a 3rd place finish and then a fourth, before Bees did the unthinkable and took the Superleague title. Coach Dave Whistle, in only his second season as a coach, took the little club to the very top

Slippery slope[edit | edit source]

Unfortunately, things went downhill from there. New club, Belfast Giants tempted Whistle away with a lucrative package and he was closely followed by seven of the championship winning squad. Whistle repeated the feat, winning the ISL in his second season. Meanwhile, Whistle was replaced by Enio Saccillotto, who never managed to recover from only having 3 players return.

Bees did finish a creditable 3rd in his first season, but never really looked like one of the better teams in the league. From there, it all went pear shaped!

Bees eventually announced that they were to leave the ISL at the end of the 2002-2003 season. With Manchester and Ayr having left the league during the season, Bees announcement finally spelt the end of the ISL.

Bees joined the British National League and were instantly tipped as big boys for that league. However, they finished just 3rd in their first season, before winning the league and cup double in the second season. Ironically, as with the ISL winning team, the Bees were coached by an ex Bees player, Mike Ellis, again coaching in his second season.

The Taylor Times[edit | edit source]

After the double winning season, Mr Nike announced that he was no longer going to be funding the Bees. Up stepped local Estate Agent, David Taylor. David was a sponsor of the Bees and along with his wife Sharon and coach Mike Ellis, they set up a new club. Mr Nike granted them a licence to use the name “Bracknell Bees” for marketing purposes for a three year period.

At the same time, the British National League folded and the Bees were accepted into the English Premier Ice Hockey League (AKA the EPL), along with the Hull Stingrays and the Bees big rivals, the Guildford Flames.

Coach Mike Ellis put together a mix of youth and experience and they tasted some success in their first EPL season. As well as finishing a respectable 5th in the league, Bees made it to the play-off final, beating the Sheffield Scimitars in the semi-finals at the SkyDome Arena in Coventry. Bracknell came up short in the final though, against the Milton Keynes Lightning. However, The Bees did go one better a few weeks earlier, in the EPL Cup, winning the two legged final against the Hull Stingrays in March.

Mike Ellis departed to become head coach of the Nottingham Panthers in May 2006 and was replaced on 25 May, by his assistant, Ryan Aldridge, with Lee Ealey-Newman bench coach.

10 months later, On 11 March 2007, the Bracknell Bees were crowned champions of the English Premier Ice Hockey League for the 2006/2007 season, following a 3-0 shut-out of the Romford Raiders, as the only remaining contenders for the title, the Sheffield Scimitars lost at Milton Keynes. Not content with one trophy though, Bees followed it up with their first ever play-off success at the SkyDome Arena in Coventry, overcoming the Peterborough Phantoms 2-1 in a semi-final shoot-out, before defeating arch rivals and the previous season's league champions, the Guildford Flames, 3-2, in the final.

In April 2007, David and Sharon Taylor announced that they were to take on the ownership of the Basingstoke Bison as well as the Bees. With this announcement, came the news that head coach, Ryan Aldridge was to move to the Bison as their new head coach and be replaced as Bees player/coach, by defenceman Dwight Parrish.

Dwight Parrish re-signed the bulk of the previous season’s double-winning team, but lost influential forward, Lukas Smital. Smital was replaced by Michal Kanka and the team continued to enjoy success, before off-ice problems started to set in.

David and Sharon Taylor ran into financial difficulties and on 8 December, their contract with Planet Ice, to run the Bison, was terminated. The troubles soon spread to the Bees and following a period of rumours, surrounding unpaid bills and player wages, the Taylors announced on the 11th December 2007 that they were to relinquish the operating licence for the Bees.

At this time, Bees were sitting in second place in the English Premier Ice Hockey League, 1 point adrift of leaders, Guildford Flames, were through to the semi-finals of the EPL cup and in a good position in the Knock-out cup. The Bees time under the Taylors was successful, but was now at an end.

Fans take control[edit | edit source]

There was a lot of work done behind the scenes, looking to find new owners, before an announcement was made that a fans consortium, headed by Katie Eleftheriou had come up with a rescue plan, to see the club through to the end of the season, if fans were willing to make donations. This they did and the club finished the season in 3rd place in the league, winning the EPL cup and finishing runner up to Slough Jets in the play-off final

For the 2008-09 season Dwight Parrish returned to the Manchester Phoenix and was replaced as head coach by the previous season's captain, Adam Bicknell

External links[edit | edit source]

Preceded by
Manchester Storm
Superleague Champions
Succeeded by
Sheffield Steelers
Preceded by
Milton Keynes Lightning
EPIHL Playoff Champions
Succeeded by
Slough Jets
Preceded by
Guildford Flames
EPIHL Champions
Succeeded by
Guildford Flames
Preceded by
Guildford Flames
EPIHL Cup Champions
Succeeded by

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