Tuesday 25 June 2024

Book Review: "On Thin Ice" by Stuart Latham

When I was a young child growing up in Stanground - which, if you don’t happen to know, is a pleasant leafy suburb of the historic cathedral city of Peterborough – I once saw a very odd sight which has stayed in the back of my mind all these years.

I was walking to the sweet shop when I saw a chap – maybe late teens / early 20s (when you are 9 or 10, everybody else just looks "old" to you...) – ride by on a bike.  BUT he was riding no-handed and reading a book at the same time.

Now, this was back in the mid 1970s in the days when the liberal consensus and permissive society and everything else were all in full swing and nobody had ever heard of “Health & Safety “ but even then, I figured this might have been a bit of a dangerous thing to do.

As far as I can remember, he had a small paperback book balanced against the handlebars held loosely in position by his thumbs, so may well have had a modicum of control over his machine, but he certainly wasn’t looking where he was going.

I don’t know who he was, where he was going or what happened later – he could have come to a sticky end a bit further up the road for all I knew – but the vision of this bloke on this bike with this book has always stuck with me.

So – why am I telling you this?  Well, not that I would EVER encourage or condone anybody attempting to doing anything quite so dangerous and illegal on a public road, putting themselves and others in harm’s way, and however clever this particular bloke was with reading books on bicycles, I bet that he would not have been able to do it with Stuart Latham’s new publication “On Thin Ice” – which is a fascinating comprehensive account of ice hockey in Manchester from 1961 onwards.

I have commented before on the “huge-ness” of some of Stuart’s other books – the Alloa Athletic one still lays stubbornly where I first put it down because it is too heavy for me to pick up and put away anywhere - and this is another very impressive example of literary huge-ity. It is certainly too big to prop up against the handlebars and read while you are pedalling along.

If you want facts and figures to back up this assertion – or “stats”, as we like to call them in the ice hockey world – I will give you some.

“On Thin Ice” has a whopping 734 pages and weighs 1.3kg!  It is a hardback, which gives it that nice classic quality feel and, as the spine is 4.5cm wide, it will stand nicely on your bookshelf without falling over or flopping. It is 26.5cm tall – which is actually 1cm taller than most of Stuart’s other B5 format ice hockey books – but that just means that it is easier to find on the shelf in the dark.

Now, if you are a keen collector of ice hockey books in general - and Stuart Latham’s books in particular - you will probably have come across a lot of this material before as he has previously produced separate volumes about the Altrincham Aces, Manchester Phoenix and Manchester Storm teams but, even so – it’s nice to have all this stuff together in one tidy edition.

This book goes right back to the early days when the original Devonshire Road rink in Altrincham first opened and boasts such well known names of the day as Chick Zamick and Art Hodgins on the Aces bench. We then navigate through the Trafford Metros era of the late 1980s and early 90s, the first Manchester Storm team in the Superleague, the Manchester Phoenix period from 2002 to 2017 and finish up with the modern Storm and Aces teams.

As you’d expect from a Stuart Latham publication, it is packed with league tables, stats and photos.  There are loads of player profiles and some great memories from people who were involved, such as

  • Daryl Lipsey, Hilton Ruggles and John Lawless (Storm)
  • Neil Morris, Tony Hand and Peter Hagan (Phoenix)
  • Tom Revesz, James Ashton and Sarah Hutchinson (Aces)

and there’s even a bit from me in there as well…

So, there we have it: “On Thin Ice – The Incredible Rise And Fall Of Ice Hockey In Manchester”.  To order your copy, drop Stuart a line via Facebook HERE  or send him an email HERE  

- and get him to tell you about his other ice hockey books as well.