Scottish Thistles Masters Hockey Club ("Thistles") formerly (2018) Scottish Masters LX Hockey Club, originally (2002) Scottish Veterans LX Hockey Club
The Beginning: Paris Saint Germain 2002
Our club was formed in 2002 as a result of an invitation for a Scotland team to participate in the European Superveterans Championships in Paris in October 2002. The Scots finished third in the tournament after losing a penalty flick competition against the current holders Uber 60 (Germany) for a place in the final against England LX. The Scottish team was awarded the fair play trophy and was mentioned in the tournament summary as having contributed to the "ambience débridée" at the tournament dinner. The journey had begun, and what better place to start it than in Paris?
Doug Morrice was the driving force behind the team, calling on many of the players who had played for Scottish Veterans in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. That era had seen a flourishing veterans district tournament, playing for the Freddie Gruber trophy and involving East, Midlands, North and West district teams, but district hockey at senior level died out after the establishment of the National League in 1975. Eventually, with little or no new blood coming in, the Freddie Gruber trophy competition was no more, and Doug saw that international competition could take its place, allowing the ageing veterans to compete once again with players of their own age.
The 'founding members', first to wear the navy blue (soon to turn grey) cotton drill strip with the Scottish Veterans LX Hockey Club badge, were: Howard Andrew, Alan Auld, George Black, Alan Bremner, Doug Caren, Ian Downie, Keith Forster, Craig McCall, David McIntosh, Peter Monaghan, Doug Morrice, Harry Phillips, Alistair Philip, Alan Strachan, Jim White. These were the days before passport inspections and some of the players were a little below the age of sixty, but "looked old", according to Doug Morrice.
Early International Competition
Every year since 2003 in Hannover until 2020, the club has competed as the national team of Scotland, though it continued to play in the original strips until 2008 (with numbers ironed on in 2005 and new, white 'away' strips, both to meet European tournament regulations). The 'Europeans' were held at Peffermill in 2004 and the visiting teams came away with a fine impression of Scotland as well as the trophy. Rotterdam was the venue in 2005. Scotland won the European bronze medal in Bra, Italy in June, 2006. In September 2006 in Leverkusen, Germany, Scotland competed for the first time in the Masters World Challenge Series, finishing in sixth place in the World Grand Masters (Over 60s) tournament with wins over Netherlands and Egypt.
Enter the Great Grand Masters - Over 65s
Five years on from Paris 2002, we had enough players old enough to form an Over 65 international side. At Canterbury, England in 2007, Scotland Over 65s competed for the first time in a major competition alongside their younger counterparts in the inaugural European Cup tournaments at Over 60 and Over 65 levels. Scotland, now playing in official Scotland strips, finished in fifth place in both the Over 60s (Grand Masters) and Over 65s (Great Grand Masters) events in the World Grand Masters championships held in Hong Kong in September 2008. Scotland competed at both Over 60s and Over 65s levels in subsequent World Cups in Cape Town in 2010, Oxford in 2012, Den Haag in 2014 and Newcastle, New South Wales, in 2016. Both sides took part in the European Cup competitions in Amstelveen in 2009, Neuss in 201 and Kontich in 2013.
... and now the Senior Grand Masters - Over 70s
Many of the original players were still playing in 2015 but a shortage of players in the 65-69 age group meant that there was no Scotland Over 65 team in the 2015 European Cup in London. Instead, Scotland fielded an Over 60 team and, for the first time in a major competition, an Over 70 team. That team won the bronze medal. In 2017 we saw further expansion with Scotland able to field: Over 60, Over 65, Over 70 sides and Thistles, our Tournament Trophy side in the European Cup held in Glasgow. This Thistles side went on to achieve the silver medal in the World Cup Tournament Trophy in Barcelona.
The Ladies took a very different path to get involved in the Scottish Thistles
In 2008, a like-minded group of ex-internationals and inspired Ladies management, triggered by England Hockey reaching out to Scotland, resulted in the inaugural Veterans International fixture held in Hawick in the Borders during the Hawick Common Riding. The age group? Just a single team of Over 40s.
The following year – two age groups, the Over 40s and 45s, played England and Wales, again hosted by Scotland, in Edinburgh at Peffermill, combining with the Mens Over 45s and Over 50s tournaments. A victory over England by the Over 45s Ladies meant for sure the Home Nations competition was here to stay, and ripe for further development.
Since then, the number of age groups has expanded over the years to include from Over 35s through to Over 65s in 2022, and the Home Nations now includes teams also from Ireland, and of course a steadily increasing number of nations participating in both the European and World Cup competitions. Venues for the Home Nations have rotated around the four nations i.e. Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, Swansea, Wakefield. The Europeans in Glasgow in 2017, World Cup in Barcelona in 2018, Europeans in Brasschaat near Antwerp in 2019, and again the Worlds Tournaments with age groups split between venues in England and South Africa in 2022. As the sport has expanded, so have the number of participating nations and teams, and the number and variety of locations.
International trials and training, from the start were organised by a dedicated Ladies group, nominally under the informal umbrella of Scottish Hockey at first, and, unlike the Mens LX, not as a specific Club. However, since November 2020 the Veterans (now Masters) are now formally under the Scottish Masters governance structure within Scottish Hockey (see End of an Era below). All the Ladies training and trials are now managed under this Scottish Masters governance structure.
This increase in numbers of Ladies wanting to extend their playing careers, or simply return to hockey, means that not all may necessarily be interested in trying to compete at international level, or some of the Ladies just don’t quite make it through selection.
So for them, the Scottish Thistles opening the door in 2021 for the Ladies, gives all Lady hockey players, of whatever standard, an opportunity to embrace the chance to play, and to come together and socialise with the hockey community that is the Thistles, and beyond. The Ladies participated competitively as the Thistles for the first time at the Thistles Dundee Tournament in 2021, and then in the Tilburg International Veterans tournament, and Dundee again in 2022.
Home Nations International Competition
Scotland LX played England LX in an informal international at Tarporley in 2007 and then played Wales in Aberdeen the following year. Scotland hosted the first Home International tournament in Stirling in 2009, the Over 60 tournament for the Linburn Trophy involving England, Scotland and Wales and the Over 65 tournament only England and Scotland. The Home Internationals have continued every year except 2014 and 2020 since then, Wales coming into the Over 65 tournament in 2012 in Dundee. Ireland joined the Over 60 tournament in 2015 in Glasgow took part in the Over 65 Home Internationals for the first time in London in 2016. In that year, the tournament was expanded to include an Over 70 series involving England, Scotland and Wales, a format which continued into 2017 in Wales.
Change of Name; end of an era
With 'masters' becoming the term for all hockey from age 35 upwards, at the 2018 AGM members voted to change the name of the club to Scottish Masters LX Hockey Club. International events were being run by World Grand Masters Hockey and by International Masters Hockey however the popularity of these events meant it had to come under the remit of hockey's international governing body and in 2020 they established World Masters Hockey. All official internationals and major competitions including Home Nations and World Cup fall under the WMH remit. To continue the success of non-representative hockey WMH established Spirit of Masters in lieu of Tournament Trophy.
End of an Era
27 November 2020 was a momentous date in the history of the club - on that date, Scottish Masters Hockey was incorporated and took over the running of Scotland's international teams for men and women from age 35 upwards. Our club, with the blessing and support of Scottish Hockey took on a new purpose: to manage the Spirit of Masters non-representative masters hockey for men and women from age 35 upwards. We took on a new name: Scottish Thistles Masters Hockey Club and on 17 February 2021 a new constitution.
Thistles, along with England LX, Southern Cross (Australia), Alliance and the various Spirit of Masters clubs from other nations continue to expand the concept of non-representative international masters-age hockey around the world whether at open festivals, competitive tournaments and the World/European Cup Spirit of Masters competitions.