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Billy Brennan

A talented Scot who represented Great Britain as player or coach in six World Championships between 1953 and 1971, Billy Brennan was a stalwart with the Paisley club where he played most of his career, and helped to keep the sport alive in Scotland during the 1960s.

Short and stocky, he was a precocious defensive talent. He made his debut in the Canadian-dominated Scottish National League as a 17-year-old, joining Ayr Raiders for ten games during the 1951-52 season when the team were suffering a bad run of injuries.

When Ayr’s Canadian coach Keith Kewley left to run Paisley Pirates the following season, he took the teenager with him and converted him into a checking right-winger. With Brennan on the roster, the Pirates won the treble of Scottish League, Autumn Cup and Canada Cup in 1953-54.

Bill cited Kewley as the major influence on his hockey career. During six seasons under him at Paisley, he played 318 games, scoring 101 points (35 goals) with 202 penalty minutes.

When Kewley left the Pirates, Brennan took charge of the amateur Paisley Mohawks as player-coach in 1959-60. An innovative teacher, he introduced an off-ice fitness programme for his players, based on Lloyd Percival’s classic 1951 Hockey Handbook. This left the players free to concentrate on developing their skills and tactics when they found ice-time.

In order to sharpen his team’s skills further, he also matched them against Canadian Air Force teams based on the continent. This pioneering approach wasn’t just smart thinking on his part. It was a necessity as so few rinks allowed ice hockey in Britain back then.

During the early 1960s Brennan and his men played non-league hockey wherever they could find opponents, and enjoyed enough success to earn Bill four All-Star nominations: as player and coach on the 1964-65 ‘A’ team, and as defenceman on the ‘B’ team in 1961-62 and 1963-64.

The hard work paid off to the extent that when the Northern League began in 1966-67, the Mohawks topped the table in its first two campaigns and captured a remarkable Grand Slam of four titles in 1967-68 – league, play-offs, Autumn Cup and Icy Smith KO Cup. This brought him more All-Star honours in 1967-68 and 1968-69 – two on the A’ team’s defence, and two as coach of the ‘B’ squad.

After a brief retirement, he joined Glasgow Dynamos’ blueline corps halfway through the 1970-71 season, helped them to achieve the league runners-up spot and gained himself yet another All-Star ‘A’ team berth.

Among the Paisley players he developed into internationals with Great Britain were Billy Miller, Jackson McBride, Alistair McRae and Bill’s younger brother Alastair, a fellow Hall of Famer.

His own international career began in 1953 when, still only 19-years-old, he represented GB at the World Championships in Switzerland. After they won the silver medal in Pool B in 1961, he was appointed team captain the following year in Denver, Colorado when Britain competed in the elite A Pool.

He subsequently played and coached in the Pool B tournaments of 1965 and 1966. After his successful comeback with Glasgow in 1970-71 he was invited to join the GB team for Pool C of the World Championships. A winger in the 1953 and 1971 tournaments, he bolstered the blueline on the other four.

He enjoyed one more spell with the sport in 1992 when he was invited by the new Aberdeen ice rink to help set up and coach their ice hockey programme.

William Patrick Brennan was born on 13 January 1934 in Paisley, Scotland and died there on 8 March 2020.