The ice hockey community around the United Kingdom was saddened by the death of its elder statesman, Frank Dempster, on Christmas Eve at Ayr Hospital, after a brave and lengthy battle against illness. Frank was a leading figure in the sport, wearing a multitude of hats for many years, and was highly respected both within these shores and at international level.
Born in Ayr on 13th March, 1937, Frank was educated at the town's former Newton Academy, where football was his first sport.
The attraction of the old Ayr Ice Rink on Beresford Terrace, in the post-war ice hockey glory years of the Ayr Raiders, was to become an important part of Frank's early life, as it was for thousands of local youngsters at the time. He was to spend much of his early working life on the maintenance of the original Rink, and it was there where Frank first played ice hockey, in the mid fifties, following the demise of the pro Raiders. He was to devote his life to the sport.
With the collapse of 'senior' hockey, the rink management was unwilling to allow the original team name of "Raiders" to be used. When serious amateur hockey began to be played again, towards the end of the fifties, the team was first known as the Ayr Hurricanes, playing all matches away from home, becoming the Ayr Balmorals (after a local café owned by the club's backer), in 1961, when hockey again returned to Beresford Terrace.
In those days, Frank played on the wing and also guested for many teams, including the Glasgow Flyers, Perth Blackhawks, Fife Flyers and the Falkirk Lions, as well as various "Scottish Select" teams. Such was his enthusiasm,"anywhere you could get a game," was how he described hectic late-night 400-mile plus journeys to play in Southampton or Brighton.
The Balmorals were renamed the Ayr Rangers for 1962-63, when Frank moved back to a defensive berth, and was a member of the Ayr team which won the Scottish League that season.
Frank continued as a player with the Ayr Bruins from 1966, contributing the Ayr reports to the Ice Hockey Herald magazine of the time. He retired from playing himself when the old rink closed in April 1972, becoming secretary of the Ayr club and helping the re-establishment of the team at Limekiln Road in 1974. He was bench coach of the Bruins when the British Championship was won by Ayr in 1976, the year in which he became a personal member of the British Ice Hockey Association.
He continued to serve as Ayr representative on the old Northern Ice Hockey Association, and also acted as Team Manager for the Bruins and various Scottish and Great Britain representative sides. In addition, he devoted much of his time to the coaching of young hockey players, an interest which had began during the early sixties with the then junior Bruins at Beresford Terrace.
When the Scottish Ice Hockey Association was re-formed in 1979, having been dormant for over twenty years, Frank Dempster was elected President, and was Chairman of the Association at the time of his sad passing.
It would be difficult to find anybody who worked harder or longer for ice hockey in Great Britain, particularly as so much of his efforts were expended during many difficult years for the sport in this country, without receiving anything like the credit his efforts deserved.
Frank's contribution to the sport was recognised with his induction to the British Ice Hockey 'Hall of Fame' in 1992. No-one worked harder for the sport of ice hockey in Ayr. He will be sadly missed.
Frank is survived by wife June, daughter Sharon, son-in-law John, and grandsons Sean and Ryan.
by David Gordon
British Ice Hockey Writers Association
(reprinted with permission)