Wednesday

Tony Hand

Who the heck is Tony Hand and what is he doing on a website about hockey history? I know that's what you are asking yourself! To answer your question - this website tries to cover legends of international hockey as well as North American and when it comes to British Hockey players, Tony Hand is a legend.

A veteran of 24 British Hockey League/Elite Ice Hockey League seasons, most notably with the Murrayfield Racers, Hand became the leading scorer in the history of the league. Appearing in 1199 games heading into the 2007-08 season, Hand has scored (brace yourself) 1356 goals, 2216 assists for 3572 career points!

That includes the 1986-87 season when he scored 105 goals and 216 points in just 35 games! He better that in 1993-94 when he scored 222 points in 44 games. He also recorded season point totals of 212 , 207, 192, 185 and 164 twice! He's still tacking up the points too, as he is a playing coach now in his 40s

The NHL Takes Notice

Okay, okay, it isn't the National Hockey League, but Hand's statistics are nonetheless impressive.

So impressive was he that Glen Sather and the Edmonton Oilers scouted him and drafted him in 1986. The Oilers even brought him over to training camp in 1986. He survived all 14 days of training camp despite breaking his only stick on the first day of camp and borrowing Marty McSorley's the rest of the way. The Oilers were impressed enough to offer him a chance to further his development with Victoria in Canadian junior hockey, as Sather suggested '"At the training camp I could see that he had a great ability to read the ice and he was the smartest player there other than Wayne Gretzky. He skated well. His intelligence on the ice stood out. He was a real prospect."

Hand reported to Victoria, a city that is said to be "more British than London," but after scoring 4 goals and 8 points in just 3 games in the WHL, Hand opted to return to Murrayfield. He was said to be suffering from homesickness and exhaustion. The hectic training schedules as well as intense media interest soured Hand on his Canadian experience. Plus he was paid well to play professionally in the BHL.

Back to Murrayfield

The following year the Oilers offered Hand a minor league contract to play in Nova Scotia with their farm team, but again he turned down the offer. Not giving the NHL a try was something Hand admitted regretting in his autobiography, Tony Hand: A Life In British Ice Hockey. In fact he turned down big offers from clubs all across Europe to stay in Murrayfield. Yet when asked, he will always tell you it was the right decision at the time.

It wasn't until the Murrayfield Racer's collapse that Hand was finally forced to move on to play hockey. He moved to Edinburugh, Sheffield, Ayr, Dundee, Belfast and Manchester, always safe as the superstar in the small world of British ice hockey.

The Scottish born Hand represented Great Britain in 6 World Championships. When he first participated, Great Britain was in the C Pool of international competition. In Hand's prime, Great Britain moved all the way up to the A Pool, which at the time featured hockey's greatest nations including Canada and Russia. It's safe to say Tony had a big hand (yeah, pun intended) in Britain's success on the international stage. In 57 international games Hand scored 39 goals, 61 assists for 100 points.

Alright, so a guy eats the lowly British league and the lower pools of international play. How did he stack up again the big boys? In 1994, his only appearance in Pool A of the World Championships, Hand scored 0 goals and 0 points in 6 games. This after setting the British Hockey League record with 222 points in his season.

Most of Hand's unthinkable scoring exploits came pre-1996, when the BHL was a real joke of a league. Renamed the BISL, BNL and finally EIHL starting in 1996-97, the powers that be in Britain rose the status of the league to near ECHL standards over time. With imported players and a professional approach, the league got drastically better, and Hand's scoring totals plummeted, yet he continued to lead the league in scoring well into his late 30s.

Hand was Scotland's superstar hockey player, which is sort of a title like Canada's best soccer player. The athlete excels in a sport that most people in the country do not pay attention to. Yet he too is a legend of hockey.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tony Hand is a class apart from almost every other player who's played in the UK in my lifetime. Only Garry Unger could rival him as the best to play over here. The one game I've seen him play in person was an absolute masterclass. Awesome!

The old British league wasn't a 'joke' - defensively weak, but very enjoyable and competitive.

Anonymous said...

The legend! The best British born player by far and in his 40s still racking up the points. It is no coincedence that the other players who played on Tony's line usually ended up having their best scoring seasons. I was lucky enough to watch him regularly in his four seasons with the Sheffield Steelers. When he finally hangs up his skates British Ice Hockey should retire his shirt number.

Anonymous said...

Tony Hand was a real thorn in the side of my team the Fife Flyers - he was a real poacher and great reader of the game - always in the right place at right time Indeed a British Sporting hall of Famer - the BHL was a verry exciting league - loads of goals unlike the NHL - the ZZZZZ league

Anonymous said...

Nice slight of a very talented player there. Eight points in three Western Hockey League games is a testament to how good he was. When Glen Sather says you're are the most intelligent player on the ice other than Gretzky, you're a special player. Period.

stephen kay said...

I was a Durham Wasps fan and loved watching Tony Hand play, he played the game at his pace,with his head up-he was the only player I feared as a Wasps fan.I
would loved for him to try and make it in the NHL.

stephen kay said...

Iwas a durham Wasps fan and loved watching him play,like all class sportsmen he seemed to have so much more time than everyone else,he played with his head up and was so difficult to check because of this.Iloved watching him play, he was the only player as a Wasps fan I feared.

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