Jack Dryburgh, ice hockey star

Born: January 14, 1939;

Died: August 21, 2020.

JACK Dryburgh knew ice-hockey inside out, as was only natural for one of the country’s most outstanding professional players and ice-sports administrators.

In 1994 he called on his peerless experience when he was appointed as consultant by the Dumfries Vikings club. “It’s a new challenge for me and I’m loving it”, Dryburgh said enthusiastically of his new post, which included overseeing ice-hockey development at all levels at the South of Scotland rink, and helping to establish commercial and promotional teams.

On match nights, Dryburgh, who knew the British game inside out, helped the club’s Ukrainian stars to get the message across to the home-based players.

His post at Dumfries was just one chapter in a truly remarkable career.

Jack Dryburgh, who has died at the age of 81, was an immense presence in ice sports in this country.

As a player “The Wee McGregor”, as he was nicknamed, was celebrated for his speed and goal-scoring ability. When his playing career finished, he was noted for his positive impact on those he helped and influenced throughout the development of the game.

Dryburgh, who was born in Kirkcaldy in January 1939, was an excellent all-round sportsman. As a tennis prodigy, following victory at the Scottish Junior tennis Championship when he was 17, he was invited to play at Junior Wimbledon. Unfortunately, the family was unable to finance the trip to the venue; distraught, Dryburgh refused to play tennis again.

He was also an excellent footballer and had interest from both Rangers and Sunderland but he turned them both down to focus on ice-hockey.

His professional ice-hockey career started with the Murrayfield Royals in 1956/57, followed by spells with Nottingham, Wembley, Southampton and Brighton. He made only one appearance for the national team, at the World Championship (Pool B), where, despite remaining unbeaten, they finished runners-up following a 5-5 draw with Norway.

It was at Brighton Tigers (1961-1965) that he was at his peak, finishing top scorer with 205 goals and 262 assists in 131 games over his four seasons there. They were the most successful team of their era, winning every domestic honour. Dryburgh himself was awarded the Sussex Sports Personality of the Year in 1964 (the runner-up was the then England cricket captain, Ted Dexter).

When the Brighton Ice Rink closed in the mid-60s, Dryburgh moved to play professionally in Europe with Liège, in the Belgian League, then with Kitzbühel, in the Austrian Tyrol. He retired from playing in 1968.

The following year he moved into leisure management at the recently-opened Aviemore Centre but still found time to create the Aviemore Blackhawks ice-hockey team and the summer league. Solihull Barons beckoned in 1977 and, in a short stint, he turned their failing fortunes around, but he was attracted back to Aviemore the following year before finally settling in Kirkcaldy in 1980.

At Kirkcaldy he took on the faltering Fife Flyers; his impact was immense and his masterstroke was importing the famous ‘Plumb Line’, executed by Ronnie Plumb, Danny Brown and Dave Stoyanovich from Canada.

Hockey at Kirkcaldy was sold out every week and the Flyers grew from strength to strength, culminating in their British Championship victory at Wembley in 1985. After leaving Kirkcaldy in 1990, Dryburgh went on to share his knowledge more broadly at Livingston, Elgin, Dumfries and finally Dundee. He also served as Chair of the British Ice Hockey Association.

As a sports administrator and events organiser he was responsible for establishing the Aviemore Summer Skating festival, which ran successfully throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. It was Britain’s foremost ice-skating festival at the time and attended by the nation’s finest skaters, including the 1980 Olympic Champion, Robin Cousins.

He also organised national and international curling events, including one World Junior Curling Championship in 1976, two European Championships (1978 and 1982) and four Scottish Mens’ championships, as well as the 1978 World short-track speed-skating championship.

He was renowned for his anecdotes and insight and was widely respected. A man of high energy, he was also known to hold court in night-long sessions at the ice rink, where he was always happy to share his knowledge and experiences.

Accolades and tributes have poured in on social media from across the country’s ice sports communities following the news of his passing.

Dryburgh was an icon of British ice sports, one of the foremost personalities in the history of British ice-hockey. In acknowledgement of his impact and contribution he was inducted into the Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.

He is survived by his four children from his marriage to the late Jacquie Dryburgh – Carolyn Caddick, Stewart, Douglas and James Dryburgh – and his long-term partner, Joy Walker.

The Dryburgh family