Some families have such a strong affinity with sports, their participation can span several generations. For the Perlini family, a deep-rooted passion for ice hockey has made their name familiar to fans of the sport on both sides of the Atlantic, thanks to a father who inspired his two sons to follow in his footsteps.
Professional ice hockey was always going to be the vocation of choice for Fred Perlini, who was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 1980, although he would only make 8 NHL appearances with the Canadian franchise. More prominent in the AHL with St. Catherines Saints and the Baltimore Skipjacks, moving to Britain in 1986 would change everything for Fred, creating a lasting legacy for himself and his family.
— Streatham IHC (@StreathamHockey) October 3, 2019
Scoring a magnificent 171 points in 35 games in just one season with the Nottingham Panthers, Fred became a familiar face in the British hockey scene, eventually playing for ten different teams and scoring more than 1400 points. His final team was the Guildford Flames, where he spent three great seasons until retiring in 1996 and set down firm roots, coaching their junior teams to great success.
Surprising as it may sound given the growing pool of talented ice hockey players emerging here, Brendan Perlini is one of only two British players who featured in the NHL during the 2019-20 season. The other is 26-year-old Nathan Walker of the Saint Louis Blues, who played just five games during the regular season, although he could feature in the playoffs – and, as of early July, his team are tipped as 10/1 shots to win the Stanley Cup.
By comparison, while Brendan Perlini enjoyed much more action on the ice, making 39 appearances with the Detroit Red Wings during the 2019-20 regular season, he will be far from satisfied with their overall team performance. The Red Wings were statistically the worst team in the NHL this season, winning just 17 of their 71 games played, before the regular season was brought to an early conclusion.
Although he was born in Guildford, Brendan pledged his allegiance to Hockey Canada ahead of the 2016 IIHF World Championship U20 tournament, after having been drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2016, where he enjoyed three strong seasons. After moving on to the Chicago Blackhawks and scoring 12 goals in 46 games, he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings last season, scoring just once in 39 games. He will be hoping for a better 2020-21 season.
Despite being born in Canada, growing up in Britain clearly made an impression on Brett Perlini, especially his years as a youth player in Guildford under the tutelage of his father. After being drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, the lure of the NHL was always going to be strong, yet despite being unable to make his breakthrough in the end, Brett still enjoyed a successful professional career in the ECHL and AHL in North America.
In the end, Brett couldn’t resist the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his father, and after making his decision to come back to Britain, it almost seemed fated that he would play for the Nottingham Panthers. Since joining, Brett has enjoyed three successful seasons with the Panthers, registering 51 goals and 70 assists in 153 appearances. He was also part of the Great Britain side that achieved top flight status at the IIHF Worlds in 2019.
The Conway Connection
If the legacy of the Perlini family isn’t enough, Fred’s cousin is none other than legendary Kevin Conway, who is a member of the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame, while his son Scott Conway is also part of the Great Britain squad. Scott is hoping to forge an NHL career with the Boston Bruins, having played with their Providence Bruins and Atlanta Gladiators affiliates during the 2019-20 season.
Given that the Perlini and Conway ties are so strong with British ice hockey, it’s not hard to imagine future generations of these families carrying on the tradition. Indeed, their passion for the game could help ensure the sport keeps growing positively here for decades to come.