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5 Top British hockey players of all time

Hand, British Ice Hockey

Canada is considered the birthplace of ice hockey, as well as where the sport is at its most popular. That being said, hockey-like games have been around for millennia. From ancient Egypt to Greece, games played with balls and curved sticks were commonplace and popular among many civilizations across millennia. A popular sport played in Inner Mongolia called Beikou has existed for over a thousand years and is considered very similar to our current conception of hockey. It would not be until Britain officially created and established the game of hockey in the mid-eighteenth century that we would understand hockey the way we do it today. While playing, if you enjoy betting on your favorite hockey teams without restrictions from Gamstop, feel free to look at these tips on how to bypass Gamstop

The first official hockey league in history was formed in the UK in 1876 and drew up the first official rules for hockey. Thirty-two years later, in 1908, the first Olympic hockey league exclusive to men was held in London. Gradually, the game gained more and more popularity over the course of the twentieth century and in 1924, the Féderation Internationale de Hockey sur Gazon – FIH – was founded. This organization focused on becoming field hockey’s international governing body, and by 1974, 74 countries had officially joined, and it continues to grow. If we were to look for the world’s top professional ice hockey league, we would turn to the National Hockey League – NHL – considered one of the wealthiest professional sports leagues in the world. 

The UK has no shortage of talent when it comes to hockey players. Today’s piece focuses on those considered to be the five greatest UK hockey players of all time. 

Ice Hockey in the UK

Nowadays, ice hockey in the UK is increasingly popular despite its stop-start popularity over the 20th and 21st centuries. Its highest-tier league, the Elite Ice Hockey League –EIHL- has seen a consistent rise in the 2010s, as well as other leagues such as National Ice Hockey League (NIHL), National Ice Hockey League 1 (NIHL1) and National Ice Hockey League (NIHL2). It is even more impressive that even though ice hockey is not a sport in which the UK is culturally adept, it is truly impressive to see Britain succeed at events such as the 2019 IIHF World Hockey championship. Even though the UK might still fall behind compared to countries like Canada, Sweden and the USA, where ice hockey is much more popular, its spirit of self-improvement never ceases to amaze.

Top five UK Hockey players in history

Even though listing out the top 5 best UK hockey players of all time seems simple, it is not as easy as it seems. After all, with such a rich and varied range of hockey games, how can we simply choose which to focus on? As it seems ice hockey is regarded as its most popular iteration, we will now showcase the 5 best UK ice hockey players ever, according to the IIHF. 

Ben Bowns – Born in 1991, Bowns started his hockey career in Sheffield and helped Great Britain’s U20 Hockey Championship win Division 1. Following this, he moved on to the British Elite League by joining the Hull Stingrays. His time with the Stingrays gave him the recognition needed to establish himself as the first choice for England’s national team, and he joined the Cardiff Devils. He would play with the Cardiff Devils until 2020 when he would join other teams abroad. It wouldn’t be until 2022 that he would re-sign with the Cardiff Devils. 

His skills as an elite goaltender have been unparalleled; he twice won the EIHL Challenge Cup and was named goaltender of the year three different times. In 2019, Ben Bowns was named Player of the Match after making 59 saves in a game against the USA. Bowns would also play in the 2021 IIHF World Championship with a save percentage of 91%.

Carl Erhardt – Born in Beckenham in 1897, Carl Erhardt is considered a pioneer of ice hockey in Great Britain. As a young boy, he was introduced to ice hockey in Germany and Switzerland. After returning to England, he joined the Princes Club, which was revived in 1926.

He played for Streatham and would eventually lead the British team at the 1935 World Championship, finishing third place. He would once again captain the English national team at the 1936 Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, playing six of seven matches and winning the gold medal at 39 years old. He retired from hockey in 1940 after winning a World Championship silver medal.

He took up refereeing, coached Great Britain’s team in its last Olympic appearance in 1948 and also founded the British Water Ski Federation. In 1950 he was elected into the British Ice Hockey Wall of Fame and posthumously honored in the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1998.

Ben O’Connor – Ben O’Connor, born in 1988 in Durham to a family of hockey players, seemed destined to follow in his father’s – Mike O’Connor – steps. Currently playing for the EIHL side Guildford Flames, he also plays for the British national ice hockey team. He was part of Great Britain’s roster playing defense in the 2019, 2021 and 2022 IIHF Championship.

He has also traveled abroad to widen his horizons and sharpen his experience after making a name for himself in Great Britain. He moved to France and played three-and-a-half seasons in Kazakhstan, where he was renowned for his defense skills. 

Tony Hand – Tony Hand was born in Edinburgh in 1967 and was the first British Player to be inducted by an NHL team. He is considered a prodigy of British ice hockey with achievements that have made annals in English history. Amongst his achievements, he has earned 11 leagues and 13 club-scoring titles. He has won six Player of the Year awards and three for Coach of the year. He would play for the national Great Britain team until the last appearance in 2007 in Division I, although he would continue playing until 2015. He would further contribute to Great Britain’s hockey, coaching Great Britain in three World championships and two Olympic tournaments.

He is considered Great Britain’s all-time highest scorer and winner of countless trophies, cups and leagues; he even received the Member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to Sports in 2004 and was inducted into the IIHF Hall of fame.

Robert Farmer – Born in Nottingham in 1991, Robert Farmer started his career for the Nottingham Panthers and moved to Alaska to compete in the East Coast Hockey League – ECHL. Playing with the Panthers, he was coached by Corey Neilson, who was also a Member of the Great Britain coaching set-up. The Farmer would help the Panthers to win the Continental Cup in 2017. He would eventually join his old coach Neilson in 2019 at DEL2 team Lausitzer Fuchse. 

Some of Farmer’s most impressive feats involve clutch goals that would turn around tournaments. In 2018, he scored a tying goal against Hungary that secured Great Britain’s return to the Elite Pool for the first time in 25 years, and he managed a similar tying goal in Kosice against France. 



  1. Bob Gibson

    13th November 2022 at 4:10 am

    JIMMY FOSTER ” Goalie ” who led Great Britain Team to 1936 Winter Olympic ” GOLD MEDAL ” in Ice Hockey is the Greatest UK Player ever! If you look up His Career Record you will see why I feel this way. JIMMY FOSTER for ( IIHF ) HALL OF FAME!

    • Stubbo

      14th November 2022 at 6:45 pm

      You mean ‘The Parson’ I agree with you, thought he had been inducted into hall of fame in 1950 though?

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