Eddie Joseph is a quite remarkable man.

For those who have not met or seen the Lee Valley Lions head coach bundle his players onto the ice on a Saturday evening, to look at he is moustached and bespectacled man of average height.

Beneath his stern exterior he clearly has a machine like constitution.

Each morning he wakes up at 4.30am to make the two hour trip to Islington, where he works as a police officer.

After a full day getting criminals off the street, the 57-year-old heads to Lee Valley Ice Centre where he oversees the training sessions of the club’s multiple teams.

Come 8.30pm he makes his way back to Kettering in Northamptonshire for a 10.30pm bedtime.


At its peak, this would be repeated three times throughout the working week and was supplemented by games on both weekend days.

Yet now, with a senior team that failed to register a win in the last calendar year and as Eddie weighs up retiring from the force and ice hockey, the club’s future is less certain than at any other time in its 34 year history.

The Lee Valley Lions first took to the ice on February 5, 1984 when Mike Smith assembled a small group of players to go out under the management of Dave Wurthman.

Its first game at the newly opened Ice Centre was against the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club, which proceeded a run of success that would not be replicated in the following 34 years of Lions’ history.

Having finished sixth in Heineken Division 1, the team channeled its momentum to dominate the following season alongside Solihull and Telford only to fall to an agonising second on the final day of the campaign and at the hands of a 6-7 loss.

The team’s association with the Lee Valley Park and the financial support that had underpinned its early promise would both eventually come to an end, starting a decline in form which finished with the team disbanding in 1995.

And then in came Eddie Joseph.


While the former Waltham Forest PC describes his playing career for the old Lions as that of a workmanlike, enthusiastic jobber, his time grafting in all positions short of a net minder stuck with him.

When the team fell apart he joined forces with a number of ice hockey enthused parents who laced up the boots of their seven-year-olds and taught them the fundamentals at the Ice Centre.

A decade later and the New Lions senior team was born.

The following 13 years haven’t exactly been plain sailing.

“The most successful season we had we came seventh out of 12,” explained Eddie, pausing to reprimand a young player from skating into a taster session without a helmet.

“We had some very good players. We could have done better.”

Seasons filled with losses punctuated with only an occasional victory followed until George Alley took over the senior team.

Despite his commitment to a cause he had been a part of since his parents helped form the New Lions when he was a boy, George’s second season in charge had the team unable to register any wins.

Eddie said: "His parents were instrumental in getting the club together and he came through as a kid.

“Last season we ended up losing every game. I think he lost heart."

When George left all but three players left the club, moving on to a number of different teams.

While this might have signalled the end for some clubs, Eddie was not disheartened, instead setting about inviting players to join the team and welcoming in those “difficult” ones who “hadn’t got along” with other coaches.

“We could have called it a day at the beginning of the season,” he explained.

“Or we could see what happens. We did that. Now we have some good players.”

My first encounter with the Lions came several months after this decision and halfway through the season.

On a sodden December evening a group of us took the bus to the Ice Centre, paid our £5 entry fee and settled in to watch what would be Lion’s 14th straight defeat of the season at the hands of last year’s league winners Solent.

It also turned out to be the best night’s entertainment we had had all year.

Each time the Sea Devils crashed the puck into the back of the net the crowd groaned and jeered, an ever increasingly intoxicated and joyful couple in front of us noisily shrugging off the goals as sheer flukes before rushing outside for mid-period cigarettes.

When the onslaught got too much a quick trip to the rink’s cafe proved enough to clear the air and rejuvenate the Lee Valley spirit, before walking back to the bleachers and the action mere feet from our seats.

While no one wants to see their newly adopted team concede 13 times, the pace, noise and smell of the game, coupled with the jubilation that followed the Lions’ three goals and abounded within player of the match Jake Wadge when he received his crate of Stellar reward, made for a truly excellent night out.


The Lions would go on to concede 21 goals and score one in their next two games.

Yet all is not lost.

Not only is Eddie convinced that the team will win a game this season - his son and co-coach Jonathan eyeing up Swindon at home on February 2 as the fixture to end their now year long victory drought - he believes the team will play on in his absence.

“I am thinking about leaving it at the end of the year when I retire,” Eddie admitted.

“I am the driving force behind it, but I’m not worried about the club.

“Someone will come in. The senior team needs someone to come in and manage it.

“I have watched a lot of the senior guys come up through the ranks, so I am emotionally involved in it.”