Saturday 20 March 2021

Book Review: The History Of The Slough Jets by Stuart Latham

If you are of a particular age – and, like me, blessed/cursed with the type of mind that remembers bizarre trivia and minutiae that nobody else is in the least bit interested in – you may recall that back when CDs were first being talked about on TV programmes such as Tomorrow’s World and so on, we were told that they were going to be much better than records (ie vinyl – and 78s too, I suppose...) because they wouldn’t get scratched and they would never jump....

Well, 40 years on, I think we all know now that CDs DO get scratched and they DO jump. Sometimes they inexplicably don’t work at all - and I can personally testify to that fact that sometimes they just suddenly stop playing when you are in the middle of a live radio show as well... so there you go.  A bit like the claims about North Sea Gas - and then nuclear power - that would get rid of domestic fuels bills for ever...  oh well. 

One of the more obscure things that I certainly remember being said about CDs was that you would be able to spread jam on them and they would still work. Well, don’t try this at home, anybody, as this DEFINITELY DOES NOT WORK!

Anyway, around the same sort of time that I was trying to “de-confiture” my late-teenage bedroom before my mum saw the rather sticky state of it, a new ice rink was being built in Slough...

(Did you see what I just did there...? A bit like Giles Coren in The Times..? You know – where he starts off talking about some unrelated topic  - and then slides seamlessly into writing about food and restaurants...? The only difference here is that I am about to slide seamlessly - if somewhat predictably - into writing about ice hockey....)

I’ve never actually been to Slough – as far as I am aware. I think I went through it on the train once - on the way to Reading to see The Pogues play at the university when my friend Alan was studying  there.  I HAVE been to Heathrow Airport a few times, which is near there, and I once drove to Hayes for work on a blisteringly hot day during the USA 94 World Cup to pick up an Australian printer (that’s a person, by the way – not a machine) to transport to Essex, which if your geography is any good, you’ll know is at the opposite extreme of the M25 – and a complete sod to get there and back to on a weekday. And that’s about it for “Slough & Me”, to be honest.

I do, however, distinctly remember the first time that the Slough Jets played against the Peterborough Pirates.

It was the Jets’ first season and the Pirates were steamrolling HBL Division 1 at the time with the likes of Garry Unger, Todd Bidner and Doug McEwen on their impressive roster.  League new boys Slough had Gary Stefan in charge (earlier of Richmond Flyers and Streatham Redskins and later of BNL fame), Richard Boprey (later of TV commentator fame) , Charlie Colon (of pretty much everywhere fame....) and their own whole load of famous names - so it was a great time to be watching British hockey.  My friend Alan actually went to the away game (as he was still just down the road in Reading) and brought me a programme back – Saturday 29th Nov 1986, Pirates won 7-12 (no,  I didn’t remember that from 35 years ago – my trivia recall isn’t quite that good - I just looked it up....).

At the home game against the Jets later in the season, I ended up sitting next to some Slough fans – presumably they’d arrived early and, as it was their first ever visit to the East Of England Ice Rink, didn’t appreciate the nuances of the seating etiquette of who went where.  But that is probably why I managed to get a seat, which used to be quite an achievement in those days – even though I was right next to them. The Pirates had just secured the HBL1 title two weeks before - with 5 games left to play - so there was a kind of party atmosphere around the place and I didn’t really mind one bit who I was sitting near.

For some reason, the Slough lads spent the whole game hurling abuse at Pirates’ defenceman Ellwyn Dawkins and waving baby’s bottles at him which - as I couldn’t spot any further evidence of babies, changing materials , or other infant-related paraphernalia -  I imagined they must have brought with them solely with that particular purpose in mind.  I do believe it was something to do with an incident that had occurred between Dawkins and Slough’s Darrin Zinger in the previous game.

Anyway, this master plan to unsettle the awesome Pirates defence obviously didn’t work and Peterborough ran out 11-5 winners ( I looked that up as well...).

The Pirates played the Slough Jets 55 times between 1986 and 2002 before they were somewhat unceremoniously replaced by the Peterborough Phantoms - so it’s quite likely that I have actually seen Slough play on numerous occasions, although nothing sticks in my mind quite as much as that first home game with the baby’s bottles that I have just told you about.

Now, if you are still with me by this point – and are wondering when we are going to get to the “good bit.” Or even if there is, in fact, a good bit to get to..... you will now be rewarded for your patience as we have now arrived at THE GOOD BIT!

Stuart Latham has covered the fascinating history of the Slough Jets in his new book – which has just come out and can be ordered now!

The Jets are one of the few clubs in the country to have kept the same name and played at the same venue  all the time ever since their launch in 1986, which means that, not only is this new book a MUST for all the Slough Jets fans past and present - but it also covers the various meanderings of British ice hockey over a somewhat stormy period – starting off in the days of the British League, then the British National League, then the English Premier League, the English National League and now the NIHL.

A massive 246 pages in total, the book has season by season stats and tables from 1986/87 right up to the 2020/21 season (even though there wasn’t one  - actually...), loads of photos and interesting articles written by former players such as Gary Stefan, Steve Moria, Charlie Colon and Brian Biddulph – and lots more besides.  

So, if you are like me and interested in British ice hockey history, even if you’re not necessarily a dedicated Slough fan, there should be something of interest in this book for you. Stuart has also produced similar club histories about a whole host of British teams all of which are available for mail order – and there is also his multi-team compilation “Ice Hockey Memories” - which features articles and interviews covering all different clubs in one volume. 

You can find out all about Stuart’s books on ice hockey and other fascinating subjects on his sales website:  

Another bit of good news is that, if you order your copy of this book – or any of Stuart’s recent ice hockey club histories  – direct via Stuart, then the club concerned get a % of the sales price, so that can’t be bad...!