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Happy 100th birthday to Pelicans Hockey Club

Washed Up column by Sarah Juggins, Tuesday, December 8, 2020

On the 16th December Pelicans Hockey Club celebrates a landmark birthday. It was 100 years ago that the hockey club was formed, playing its earliest games at a pitch off Exton’s Road.

Since then, the club has moved its home pitch many times and has been through many iterations of its black and white strip – at some point purple entered the mix too – but, at its heart, the club remains very much as it was 100 years ago.

The Pelicans Ladies in action at Lynnsport. Picture: Ian Burt
The Pelicans Ladies in action at Lynnsport. Picture: Ian Burt

It is a club that has a proud tradition of one generation following another. Currently there are several families involved in the club whose surnames have appeared on team sheets, 30, 40, 50 and more years ago. Generations of Carters, Lankfers and Browns have graced team sheets and committee positions.

But that does not mean Pelicans is an old fashioned club. It is also a club that has always been ahead of its time in many ways. It had a strong women’s section from the 1920s to the 1940s, when this was rarely the case elsewhere.

This dropped away after the Second World War and for several years it was a men’s only club. However, the merger with the Redwings Ladies in the 1980s signalled a return to a mixed-gender club and it was only a few years later that Pelicans had a female chairperson, when Pauline King (nee Carter) took on the role.

For the past 20 plus years, the club has had a home on the Lynnsport complex. It has a new pitch and lighting that is of a standard to host top level games.

Thanks to the hard work of Tracy Bower and her team of development officers and volunteers, the club has strong links to local schools and produces a steady stream of talented young players.

Over the years many players who were introduced to the game via Pelicans have gone on to join national league clubs or earn representational honours. Among the Pelican’s alumni are Olympic gold medal winning coach Danny Kerry and Olympic bronze medallist Kath Johnson.

One of its best known characters, who played, then chaired the club in the 1940s-60s was Derek Neville.

Speaking at the club’s 50th anniversary in 1970, Neville said: “I appeal to the younger member of the club to keep Pelicans independent, to be a different type of club and never to be thought of as average.”

As the club enters a new century in its history, the members are doing their best to live up to their former chairman’s words.

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