Blackburn Hawks

The Blackburn Hawks, formerly known as the Blackhawks, are a British Ice Hockey team based in Blackburn, Lancashire.

They played their first game on October 28 1990 in which the Blackhawks gained a 6-3 victory away to Oxford City Stars in a non-import challenge match, that is, a challenge match with no professional players born in a different country. In that first season, 1990/91, all the early games were away since the newly built Blackburn Arena had not yet been roofed. The first home game, on January 26 1991, also resulted in a 6-3 victory against Oxford. That squad included Trevor Fostor, Fred Perlini, Georgie Powell and Paul Fleury, with manager Keith Purvis and coach Pete Murray. Fred Perlini (formerly of the Trafford Metros) was the Blackhawks' best player, contributing 132 points (83 goals and 49 assists) in just 21 games. Dan Holden, scorer of the first ever Arena goal and renowned for being an excellent offensive defenceman obtained 116 points.

Finishing in fourth place in the English League Division One, the Blackhawks received a promotion due to the collapse of Solihull in the Heineken League.

In the 1991/92 season, Doug McKay, ex coach at Toronto Maple Leafs took over but the team had financial problems and soon the Blackhawks were managerless. These troubles meant that the Blackhawks were unable to sustain their performance of the previous season and were relegated back to the English League Division One.

The rebuild began with Glenn Knight acting as player-coach.

The welcome arrival of the much acclaimed Steve Moria in 1992 was a God-send for the new look and newly named Blackburn Hawks. His silky skills, influential play, experience and high standards proved to be a force to be reckoned with.

It was the Hawks first 'real' season and not too soon. There was what seemed to be a sound financial structure behind the scenes following the teams buy out by Peel Holdings, the firm owning the site on which the Arena is situated. This meant a new set of imports arrived in the form of Tom Diceman, Brad Penner and centre Mark Stokes from Chelmsford.

The British youngsters had an inspirational season with Elliot Andrews, Russ Plant and Simon Ferry impressing. Ari-Pekka Mikkola joined this season to replace Penner and soon became a firm favourite with the fans. George Powell and Gary Shearman were all that was left of the Blackhawks ruins.

The Hawks competed well and fought hard until the last weekend, 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 was a tremendous season and certainly one that the Hawks' faithful should remember for a long time to come. The dream of competitive hockey in Blackburn was finally alive.

Before the start of the 1994-1995 season, the Hawks were in turmoil again due to the sudden departure of Steve Moria for the Swindon Wildcats. Forward Mark Stokes volunteered himself for the role of player-coach. However, lack of experience and resources proved to be his undoing.

Four new imports joined the club this year, Canadian favourite Troy Kennedy, defenceman Sverre Sears, Matt Zilinskas and Jeff Winstanley with Kennedy being the only impressor by living up to the clubs expectations.

1994 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...

BIHA bans were imposed on the indecent Sears, Zilinskas and Winstanley after they hit the front page of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph with a late night skating session, nude. Inevitably, they were out on their ears and it was time for a new start. Ex Maple-Leaf Rocky Saganiuk arrived with the promise of a top six spot. "We'd like to see you try," was the fans angry cry. So, cue the imports.

From Milton Keynes came hard-hitting Trent Casey, Darren 'Doc' Durdle and Tony Cimellaro. John Haig was the most successful British player this season, always strong in attack. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for a somewhat poor defence. The end result being that the Hawks were relegated to division two come the end of the season, however a last minute re-structure of the league meant that they were back in division one within weeks!

Before the 1995-1996 campaign began it became apparent that Saganiuk was not to return, electing to stay in Canada. It was the Hawks' manager Mike Cockayne's lifesaving actions that kept the Hawks from folding. The Thwaites Beer sponsored , new look red, black and yellow Hawks now owned one of the most exciting partnerships that Division One had ever seen in Steve Chartrand and former Trafford star, Oleg Sinkov. Player-Coach Ryan Kummu, a much acclaimed defenceman from Fife made an immediate impact on the team with his commitment and leadership skills.

For the first time, the Hawks took top place in the table resulting from the famous 9-12 trounce at the Storm Shelter, home of the newly formed Manchester Storm. A crowd of a then record-breaking 9,500 spectators watched that match, along with millions on Sky TV in what was the first live UK hockey match to be shown on Satellite television. It was a two-horse race for the remainder of the season, with Manchester eventually victorious.

Chartrand ended as the league's top scorer, Powell returned from the ashes (once again) and Lee Cowmeadow donned a Hawks' shirt for the second time. What a season. This team defied all the odds and will always be the champions in the fans eyes. They over-achieved beyond anyone's wildest dreams and we'd truly hit the big-time.

The 1996-1997 season gave the Hawks yet another new coach, a new set of imports and a new set of problems. Following the departure of Player-Coach Kummu, Jim Pennycook, one of the most experienced players in the British game took charge of the coaching duties.

This season saw the start of the new Ice Hockey Superleague, where the teams with the most money fought out a well-televised campaign with a non-spoken 3 Brits per team rule. The other teams were left to sort out what was left between themselves. The teams outside of this new league were in discussions throughout the summer trying to decide on a new league format. Eventually the teams were split into two sections, the Northern (Premier) League which the Hawks took part in, and was limited to three imports. The Southern Premier League contained teams who tried to imitate the Superleague, using as many imports as they could get their hands on.

The Hawks' difficulties began right at the start of the season, losing two of their three imports before the end of November. They were replaced by Patrik Ferlander and Ismo Rokala, the Flying Finn. 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 including British Canadian, Todd Bidner. Hawks' fighting spirit and dedicated players did really well to finish mid table.

For the 1997-1998 season another name change brought in, much to the disgust of many fans. The aim behind the change being to promote the team across the County, thus the Lancashire Hawks were born. Unfortunately for the management, attendances failed to improve at all.

This season Hawks went back to Canada for their imports, Jeff Daniels and Adrian Lomanaco being the chosen two. The third import was Mika Pynnonen from Finland, who failed to make much of an impact in the British game.

Another disappointment was the departure of Lomanaco towards the end of the season. The leagues leading scorer before Christmas and a fans favourite, the Canadian sited personal reasons for leaving the club with the promise to return for the playoffs. He didn't show up. Daniels then took over as the Hawks' leading forward and worked hard for his team all season. The departure of the first two imports meant that the management team had to find a replacement and fast. In came Ismo Rokala, he just couldn't keep away!

A disappointing season all round, with Pennycook and Neil Able missing most of the season through injuries and many other players taking time out for treatment, Hawks finished bottom of the league and bottom of the play-offs.

On to the start of season 1998-1999 and the Hawks are finding 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, Hawks found themselves competing against the likes of Solihull, Swindon and Milton Keynes again. But for this campaign the name of the team was reverted back to 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 win, and a convincing one at that with a 13-1 scoreline against the Wightlink Raiders who had travelled from the Isle of Wight. The MVP award for the Hawks on this night went to Tom Burridge. Other players to stand out this season were the exceptional trio of imports in Andrew Dickson, Brian Smith and James Beale, although controversy rained come Christmas time when Dickson went AWOL and signed for a team in Germany's Deutsch League. He soon returned to the Hawks' nest with an apology to his team mates and the fans.

A successful 1998 was followed by even more 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.

The Hawks were hotly being tipped for possible league success in some parts of the media, however by mid march it became clear that the team could not win the league and in fact would not be taking part in the end of season play-offs due to their financial problems. This didn't deter the players on the ice, nor the fans. Almost 1,500 packing the Arena to watch an exciting 10-9 victory over Chelmsford and a close 7-6 defeat to the hands of Milton Keynes to close 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 wouldn't have a hockey team come the start of the 1999-2000 campaign, other sections of the press were reporting that they had been threatened with expulsion from the league for refusing to take part in the playoffs.

They did however take the summer break as an opportunity to reflect on past mistakes and re-think the strategy for hockey in the town. It was decided to drop into English League Division One again. A mixed reaction coming from the fans, some of whom refusing to return to the Arena if there was no import hockey taking place, others who stood besides their team in the hope that this time the powers that be had made the correct decision. 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 Bobby Haig, the Hawks just missed out on a play-off place at the end of the season, although their young and somewhat inexperienced team ended on a high with some enthusiastic, crowd pleasing performances.

then there were too many conflicts of personality and it all got messy and everyone left

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