Lee Valley Lions
|Lee Valley Lions|
|City||Leyton, Waltham Forest, London, United Kingdom|
|League||NIHL Division 2 South East|
|Home arena||Lee Valley Ice Centre
Ice size: 56m x 26m
|Colours||White, Green and Blue trim (home)
Green, White and Blue trim (away)
|Head coach||George Alley|
The Lee Valley Lions are an ice hockey team based in Leyton, east London where they play at the Lee Valley Ice Centre. They are the senior Ice Hockey team at the rink which they share with the London Raiders, Lee Valley Junior Ice Hockey Club, Eastern Stars and London Devils recreational teams and, the University of London Ice hockey Club.
Original Lions 1984-1995
They were originally formed in early 1984, and after a series of friendlies the 1984/85 season was their first in competition. They competed in Heineken Division 1 where they finished a credible 6th. The next season though the Lions dominated the league along with Solihull and Telford to come an agonising 2nd place on the last day of the season following a 6-7 loss in their final game at third placed Telford but, despite the disappointment the team ended the season on a high by winning the Division One Trophy.
After this narrow failure the Lions never reached the same heights again. Although in 1986 they recorded what probably remains the biggest win in the clubs history with a 3-2 victory over Premier Division Nottingham Panthers in the Autumn Cup.
In 1990 British Engine became the main sponsor of the Lions prompting a change in the teams colours from the original colours of white, green and blue to red, black and white (this remained the team colours until operations ceased in 1995) but the new sponsorship could not change their form as the Lions slowly descended the league tables until they disbanded in 1995 for financial reasons.
The New Lions (2005-2008)
In 2005 the team was reformed by Junior Head Coach Eddie Joseph to compete in the English National Ice Hockey League, bringing back former player Nicky Braithwaite, ex-junior Paul O'Neill and ex-Haringey Greyhound Kwabina Oppong-Addai to go with juniors from the current system like James Scott Joseph and Grant Hutcheon.
In their return season the team struggled and failed to register any points, including close games with local rivals Haringey Greyhounds and the Cardiff ENL Devils. But inexperience showed against accomplished clubs like the Invicta Dynamos and Basingstoke Buffalo with only heavy defeats to show for their efforts. The Lions finished bottom of the league with a record of 0-20-0.
The 2006/07 season rang a lot of changes with coach Sergei Smolenko coming in and former Chelmsford Chieftains captain James Hatfull joining to bolster the team's experience. There was a big improvement as the Lions became a stiffer opponent although lacklustre performances on the road again led to heavy defeats. Six times the Lions had double figures put past them (including a 19-2 defeat in Basingstoke). In the end the team finished third bottom with 12 points from 22 games (Cardiff withdrew from the league with all their results expunged) and a record of 5-15-2, including wins over Oxford (twice) and Milton Keynes.
In 2007/08, less players were brought in as the core of younger players stayed on. Joining them were former Haringey Greyhound Nick Alley (younger brother of netminder George) and Alistair Band, American defenceman (and new captain) Scott Pollak and former London Racer JJ McGrath from Wightlink Raiders (although his stint was short lived). With registration and other paperwork issues holding some players back, a weakened Lions bench began the season in Bracknell with an 8-1 defeat to a much fancied Hornets side. Road form (or lack of) was the main criticism of the team throughout the season, of the seven games won throughout the campaign. Only two were won on the road, one of these was a surprise 4-3 win in Basingstoke (having lost 16-6 at home to the Buffalo just a month before), the other was an abandoned (due to player injury) 5-3 win at basement boys Solent & Gosport. Other disappointments included a 5-4 home loss to Haringey despite dominating their London rivals and, when a final day surprise was on the cards at home to eventual champions Invicta. The Dynamos were able to reply from 2-0 down to win 5-3, The Lions ended the year with a record of 7-11-0 in a much shortened season (due to the Southern league being split in two).
Success at last
The weekend of 10 and 11 May 2008 the Lions travelled down to the Isle of Wight for the Vectis Tigers first "Ice Cube Tournament" involving an array of ENIHL and recreational teams. After going unbeaten and winning their group on goal difference ahead of the hosts, the Lions then faced former EPL side Solihull Barons in the semi final, winning 4-1. Then after a break of twenty minutes, an exhausted Lions team somehow mustered the energy to thrash fellow rink tenants London University Dragons 7-0, Joe Berry scoring six of the sides goals.
It was the first silverware since winning the old Division 1 trophy in 1985, and the clubs first since the reformation of the junior section in 1998.
Return to old ways
After showing late promise towards the end of the previous season, much was expected of Smolenko's young team in 2008/09. Despite picking up an opening game win against Vectis Tigers (albeit by forfeit) The Lions never got going, proceeding the Vectis game (in which captain Michael Ranby broke his hand) with six straight defeats. To add to the loss of Ranby, netminder George Alley two months into the season and a string of injuries kept the side short benched throughout. This was epitomised in their final game when less than two lines arrived at champions Chelmsford, resulting in a 12-0 loss. The season ended with a record of 8-21-3, scoring 121 goals but conceding 191.
Sergei Smolenko left that summer (replaced by Ian Prince) along with almost the entire playing squad, only James Hatfull and James Scott-Joseph remained. Some players from the original 05/06 squad returned (Richard Hodge and Nick Braithwaite) but, the rest of the team were all new faces acquired following summer trials, the pick of these being Great Britain's women's captain Angela Taylor who would go on the led the side in scoring (17 points from 14 games). Lee Valley had a rough ride throughout 09/10, only winning three matches (although the Slough win was expunged following their departure from the league). Both in local derby's with Streatham Bruins and Romford Fury (the return fixtures ending in big defeats for Ian Prince's side. The team also conceded a massive average of 11.1 goals per game. New boys Bristol (returning to senior hockey after a break longer than Lee Valley's own time in hibernation) scraped the league on a tie breaker, despite runners up Swindon have the superior goal difference.
Nick Alley (Captain)
Notable former players
Vesa Pennanen (NM)