Stevie Lyle, the home-grown Cardiff Devil has been inducted into the UK Hockey Hall of Fame.
The goalie known by his fans as The Cat enjoyed one of the longest and most consistently successful careers of any British netminder.
The Cardiff-born keeper burst onto the scene at the tender age of 14 in 1994 with his home-town side, the Devils, and went on to play for 23 seasons, 12 of them at the top level.
Along the way, he collected two league trophies, two playoff titles and a Challenge Cup. His agility in the nets earned him six Best British Netminder awards, places on three All-Star first teams - and one second team - and a Player of the Year honour.
While the major part of his British career (ten seasons) was spent in Cardiff, he also strapped on his pads with Manchester Storm and Belfast Giants, and in the second tier with Guildford Flames, Bracknell Bees, Basingstoke Bison and latterly three terms with Swindon Wildcats. He took his talents overseas for three years - in the USA, Italy and France where he was numbered among the French league’s All-Stars.
The highlight of his British league career, he recalled, was winning the inaugural Superleague season with the Devils in 1996-97 when the league voted him their Player of the Year. “That was amazing,” he said. "I was only 17 and I was playing with all those imports.”
His ambition was to compete on the world’s greatest ice hockey stage, the NHL, and he took a big step towards this in the summer of 1997 when he was the highest goalie drafted by the Canadian (junior) Hockey League. He signed a three-year contract with Detroit (Plymouth) Whalers but competition for the goalie spot was crowded and he ended that season on their farm team.
Internationally, he was capped 82 times for Great Britain in 13 World Championship tournaments and seven Olympic Qualifiers - all are records for a GB goalie) - compiling an overall 2.53 goals against average. When coach Peter Woods gave him his World Championship debut in 1996 with a 4-2 win over Belarus at the age of 16, he was the youngest goalie ever to play in Britain’s colours.
Only a few months earlier, he had made a splash in the Under-20 World Championship, gaining man-of-the-match honours in three of GB’s four games.
Lyle was younger still when he was picked by his coach John Lawless to start for the Devils in a Continental Cup quarter-final match in 1994 at the ridiculously early age of 14. The gamble paid off as he backstopped the Devils to a 6-2 win over the heavily favoured Ukrainian champs Sokol Kiev and the club went on to qualify for the cup semis. “I don’t remember being particularly impressed with this,” he said. “I was so young I suppose I thought it was normal.”
Stevie Lyle retired at the end of the 2016-17 season after three years with the Wildcats where he also coached some games with the English Premier League side.