The year was 1997. A small but imaginative and highly intelligent group of young engineering students found themselves lounging around after a night at Jesters unmotivated by the prospect of study so something new and exciting was urgently required to get them through the week. Without warning the pondering silence was shattered by the cry of “Lets play ROLLERHOCKEY!!!”. Bleary eyes lit up and off to Southampton’s Off-Beat Sports shop they trudged, student grant in hand (yep, no need to pay it back in those days), to purchase their cheap skates and even cheaper bendy sticks. A training venue was required now they were fully equipped and where better than the Mayflower Park 5-a-side court fully equipped with its resident abusive gang of teenagers or should I say ‘supporters’. The ball was dropped (the shop had run out of outdoor pucks) and like a pack of blind dogs attacking a dead rat, watched closely by a very unstable goalie armed with nothing more than gardening gloves and much less grey hair, the first scrimmage commenced…
Rumours quickly spread amongst friends of this fantastic new sport at Uni and that 5-a-side court grew busier by the week. The time had come to name the Club and what better than after the iconic image of victory designed and built in Southampton, the SPITFIRE.
The following year the first flight of Spitfires were ready for battle and entered the full contact BRHA Inline league. This was certainly a baptism of fire with brutal hitting in brick walled sports halls, broken bones were not uncommon in this league in those days.
For the next five years memberships swelled and the Club moved to the University’s Old Sports Hall where the talent level increased so the decision was made to enter the GBInline league in the 04-05 season with its dedicated Inline Hockey rink at Bisley. By the end of the 2007 season it was decided to focus only on GBInline by entering a second team. The Spitfires gradually moved up the rankings and in 2008 gained promotion to the Premier division facing off against the countries best senior Inline Hockey teams, an impressive achievement for a Uni team which cycles through players every three years. Re-entry to the BRHA Inline league in 2013 took place once a new dedicated rink had been created and the A-Team quickly proved themselves as a top three level team.
2004 was the breakthrough year for the Spitfires winning the British University Inline National Championships in Deeside with a 9-0 demolition in the final at a very well represented tournament of twelve University teams. This really put the Club on the map with students now choosing Southampton to study for this reason. The Spitfires then took full responsibility for organising this National tournament for the following six years gaining further titles in 2006, 2007, and 2010.
An important move for the Club was made in 2005 with the decision to enter the British University Ice Hockey Association going on to win the Division 2 League title that same year. It was time to step up to the big league but it wasn't until 2011 that the Spitfires really made their mark at the National Championships with an emphatic victory in the Tier I final. The following two years were disappointing not progressing beyond the semi-finals but the Spitfires then brought the title home again with back to back wins in 2014 and 2015. A loss in the 2016 final ended the dream of triple back to back wins which inevitably led to yet another Tier 1 Nationals title in 2017 also taking the League title the same year making the Spitfires the most successful Club in the history of Tier 1 University National Championships!
The Ice B-Team made their debut in the University Ice Hockey Association in 2007 but their breakthrough year didn’t come until the 2012 season with a fantastic squad of players who not only won the National title without conceding a single goal but also dominated the League and this League success continued in to 2013. 2019 finally saw the B-Team again reaching their potential rising to take the Tier 1 non-checking National Championship title!
The Ice C-Team took flight and flourished in the University Ice Hockey Association in 2013 giving some very promising performances in the Cup competition with the D-Team also making its debut at the Nationals at the end of that season. In 2014 the Spitfires boasted four Ice teams in the League and five Ice teams throughout all the National Championship weekends in April, truly an amazing achievement for the Club!
But the Spitfires are not just about Hockey but also of romance. Over the years many relationships have blossomed only to quickly dissolve the next morning but some have endured the test of time leading to marriage and in some cases young Spitfires of the future. With such good breeding there is no doubt we shall see great sporting successes from these fledgling Spitfires currently coming through the UK’s Junior Ice Hockey development programme.
So many wonderful enduring memories, experiences, and friendships have formed for so many people thanks only to the Spitfires. Little did that young enthusiastic group of students know what would come of their efforts 22 years ago with the enormously successful Southampton Spitfires Ice & Inline Hockey Club of today.