Archie – A Gold Medal Winning Panthers Legend

More than seventy years have now elapsed since the Nottingham Panthers won their first, two, English Championships, under the erstwhile guidance of Barnsley-born, visually impaired, Olympic Gold medallist, Archibald ‘Archie’ Stinchcombe.

Born less than a couple of years before the outbreak of the First World War, Stinchcombe would become a winger in the British game when, during the 1930s, he turned out for Streatham, either side of the Second World War, playing there in 1935-38, and 1946-48, whilst also appearing for two London clubs, Wembley Lions, and Wembley Monarchs.

However, it’s perhaps for his country, and as coach of the Nottingham Panthers, following a move there in the late forties, which he is best known, that and becoming one of the first members of the post-war, hundred goal club.

Before the Panthers, and those early, heady days of the fifties in the Lace City, it was golden time for the national team when, on the ice, Stinchcombe et al played in two Olympic Games, two World, and two European Championship tournaments.

The 1930s would see Stinchcombe as member of the side that would claim GB’s first, and only, Olympic Gold medal, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, defeating favourites, Canada, thanks to a goal netted in the final round, ninety seconds (doubled as the World Championships); they followed that up with back-to-back successes in 1936, 1937, and the 1938 Europeans – it was a dominant period for British ice hockey.

Great Britain would progress without losing a game at the ’36 Olympics, topping Group D with wins over Sweden (1-0), and Japan (3-0) in the First Round, then topping Group A, defeating Canada (2-1), drawing with Germany (1-1 OT), before seeing off Hungary (5-1) in the Second Round, whilst in the Final Round, they beat Canada (2-1), Czechoslovakia (5-0), drew with United States (0-0 OT, game featured six, scoreless periods of hockey).

That Olympics would Stinchcombe and his teammates presented their medals by none other than Adolf Hitler himself, controversially giving the ‘Nazi Salute’ upon presentation, he saying afterwards that:” We decided to give the Hitler salute as a mark of respect to the German people.

“I said that if we were going to do it we should give it to both sides of the stadium so they would realise we were saluting the people not Hitler and that’s what we did.” BBC News; February 2018

Even after the Second World War, where Stinchcombe worked in bomber construction, the Yorkshireman would captain his country to a very credible, fifth place, at the 1948 Olympic Games, in St. Moritz, Switzerland, winning three of their five games.

Canada, who most believe should have won the 36 tournament, took Gold in ’48, finishing ahead of Czechoslovakia, and the hosts, Switzerland, with Italy being very much the whipping-boys – the victories for GB, against Austria (5-4), Poland (7-2), and Italy (14-7), although  champions Canada, their secretary-manager, George Dudley, did pour scorn on the competition when stating in the Winnipeg Tribune afterwards that it was played in “ridiculous weather conditions,” that referees were “inexperienced and incompetent,” along with “impossible” ice conditions, and “annoying” delays in transportation – and that’s from the winners!!

Stinchcombe ‘retired from playing’ in 1949, and would be inducted into the British ice Hockey Hall of Fame two years later, in 1951, by which time he would find himself residing in the East Midlands, and coaching the Nottingham Panthers in the first, period of glory.

The early-to-mid 1950s, the first of three, glorious spells for the Lace City’s ice hockey side (the other two being the mid-90s, and the mid-00s to mid-10s); during Stinchcombe’s stint at the club, a period where, during the seven years he had, he was also registered as an emergency back-up player (1948-52), the club would win two championships, and have enjoyable spells in the Autumn Cup.

The first success under Stinchcombe’s guidance was lifting the League Championship for the first time, in 1951, the Panthers winning eighteen and tying three, of their thirty matches, scoring 156 points along the way; a runners-up place in the Autumn Cup (Stinchcombe’s former club, Streatham, victorious), their dozen defeats proving costly despite seventeen wins from thirty and again, netting more than 150 points en-route was also witnessed.

A third place finish in the league was witnessed in 1953, Streatham again the victors, before glory was tasted for a second time, in 1954, the Panthers winning fifteen and tying four of twenty-four outings, finishing runners-up the following year, this time to Harringay Racers (for the record, the Panthers’ captain in this period, Canadian winger, Les Strongman, he and top scorer, Chick Zamick, becoming local heroes).

What was most remarkable about Stinchcombe’s career on, and off the ice, one which lasted some two decades and saw his winning a number of honours, was his doing so with a visual impairment, his eyesight being such limited that he could only see out of one eye, due to a hockey accident as a child, which was actually spent in Canada, where his parents moved when he was around six months old – a hall of famer indeed.

Stinchcombe, who has a plaque (put up by the Cudworth Local History Society) on the house where he was born, in Barnsley, passed away in Nottingham, in 1984, just before his 82 birthday and has an honours list as follows –

As Player

Olympic Gold 1936

World Championship Gold 1936

European Championship Gold 1936, 1937, 1938

World Championship Silver 1937, 1938

As Coach

English National League Winner 1951, 1954

English National League Runners-Up 1955

Autumn Cup Runners-Up 1952

(NB – Stinchcombe’s 1936 Olympic Gold teammate, Alex Archer, also went on to coach at the Panthers).

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @PanthersIHC Archie Stinchcombe in his Wembley days.

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