League: English Premier League
Founded: 1985 (reformed 2001)
Home: Telford Ice Rink
Colours: Orange, Black, White
The Telford Tigers may be most famous in British ice hockey for being the survivors. Despite a major lack of money the Tigers have managed to maintain their professional status. Whilst the Tigers do get a lot of credit for this there is a lot more to the organisation, which includes a well developed and successful youth system that has filled the British leagues with talent.
The original Telford Tigers organisation was formed in 1985 and with some backing became quite successful. In 1988 they reached the promotion final for a place in the British Premier Division but despite a big lead the Tigers lost out by a single goal.
It was a success that was short lived as by the end of the 1990 season the Telford Tigers entered liquidation as the money troubles started. The Tigers though survived this to go on to win the 1994 Autumn Trophy and become runners up in the league.
That was a success that would continue aided by the development of local youngsters and the addition of former Manchester Storm head coach John Lawless in 1997. The Tigers finished high up in the British National League and won the 1997 Christmas Cup as well as being runners up in the 1998 Plate final.
The money issues were not far away and in 1999 the Tigers folded. There were replaced by the Telford Timberwolves but they only lasted 6 games. In 2001 though the road to recovery began. The Wildfoxes entered the amateur National League in 2001 and 2003 made the move to the professional English Premier League and resurrected the Tigers name.
The successful years did not return though as the side remained close to the bottom of the league tables and after a torrid 2009 season in which title sponsor Eurologix withdrew its support shortly after signing a deal the Tigers were again in trouble.
The Tigers missed a deadline to enter the 2009 – 2010 English Premier League but the break did the Tigers some good. A new supporter’s trust inspired by local soccer club AFC Telford was set up and the Tigers returned to the ice in 2010. The trust steadied the Tigers ship financially and allowed the side to compete on the ice.
Whilst the latest incarnation of the Tigers (since 2010) has not been very successful they have continued to develop young British players and on the back of this head coach Tom Watkins has become the Great Britain under 20’s coach. The team has also made slow improvements on the ice taking the scalps of the league winners and runners up in 2012.
The future too looks bright as the supporter’s trust has attracted new sponsors and the Telford Ice Rink is currently undergoing a £4m revamp. These are things that may not change the Tigers on the ice overnight but are a sign that the team, the rink and the management are all moving in the right direction for the future. A future that will be bright if they can keep hold of that young talent for longer.