Gary Newbon, former Solihull Barons Team owner, Central TV and Sky Sports broadcaster is today’s interview guest. Starting at Westward TV, journalist Gary moved to ATV in the early 1970’s, later rebranded as Central TV.
He went on to present programmes and interview many top Boxing and Football personalities of the time.
By the late 1970’s Gary had been promoted as the new “Controller of Sport” for both the West and East Midlands.
So, how did a high flying, very busy TV executive become the owner of a division two ice hockey team?
The answer, a broken washing machine!
Late in 1982 a Hotpoint engineer called at Gary’s Solihull home to repair his washing machine. Steve Small was the engineer, he was also the Solihull Barons club secretary.
Steve, aware that Gary liked Ice Hockey, invited him to take a look at the team. Against his better judgement, he agreed.
I remember watching the Wembley Lions as a kid and so I’d
always liked ice hockey.
Anyway I thought the team was pretty crappy, they even had
to pay to train and had about 50 spectators, mostly family.
Next minute I’d become chairman and owner!
Gary Newbon – The Miracle Man?
The Barons were a lowly second division team, shipping goals and without any imports.
Gary immediately set about using his contacts to bring in sponsorship, with DAF Trucks and Poundstretcher duly obliging. This helped secure the services of two Canadian imports, Barry Skrudland and Chuck Taylor, the latter was to become a lifelong friend.
He also used all of his journalistic skills, known at that time as the “Gary Newbon publicity machine”.
The Barons were marketed to the maximum, bringing in more and more new fans into Hobbs Moat Road.
By the start of the 1983 – 84 season Gary’s hard work had paid off. Match night attendance had gone from virtually nothing to averaging 1500 passionate Barons fans per game.
The rink was rocking
In his first season in charge, Gary’s business expertise helped the Barons top their Division Two South group. The team then defeated the winners of the Northern group, the Grimsby Buffaloes, in the Championship play off game. In a hard fought game, the Barons won 8 – 5, securing promotion to Division one
British League Division One 1983 – 84
Gary had invested heavily, ready for the 1983 – 84 season, so much so that the Barons were favourites for promotion.
The team had a new major sponsor, Glynwed International and so became the G.I. Solihull Barons. Gary had instilled a professionalism to the team that had been totally absent previously.
The Baron’s player coach, import Chuck Taylor, had identified the team’s biggest problem to be the netminding. So Gary set out to bring in the best English goalie available, Whitley Warriors English international David Graham was his target.
Naturally David Graham couldn’t turn down the opportunity to become the sports first professional non import and so accepted Gary’s offer. Regrettably this caused a lasting resentment from Graham’s previous team, the Whitley Warriors and in particular the North East’s Smith dynasty.
Gary also recruited a third import, goal scoring Mark Budz, to join Chuck Taylor and Barry Skrudland.
However, promotion was not to be, the team’s indiscipline caught up with them. This was highlighted when import Skrudland was involved in a high sticking incident on Peterborough’s Rob Carnegie. The British Ice Hockey Association gave him a 9 month ban.
Given the length of the ban Gary had no option but to sack and send the import home.
The Barons finished their league campaign a disappointing third, just two points behind the Champions, the Southampton Vikings.
British League Division One 1984 – 85
Once again the Barons were favourites to win promotion. British players Paul O’Higgins and Gordie Paterson had been brought in to strengthen the squad. Gary also brought in a new import, forderd Dean Vogelgesang, to replace the sacked Skrudland.
The fan base had grown exponentially and everyone looked forward to a really exciting new season.
The Bluecol Autumn Cup
Gary’s team investments paid off right away with the Barons topping their English southern group section. The group had included Premier teams Nottingham Panthers, Streatham Redskins and Southampton Vikings plus division one team Peterborough Pirates. Yet despite the strong opposition the Solihull team topped their group by winning all of their games.
English Final – Durham Wasps
Next up were the mighty Durham Wasps in a two legged English Final. The winner would face the Scottish Final winners to decide the Cup.
However Gary made no friends when he insisted on having neutral refs for the away leg in Durham. He’d heard that the home officials tended to favour the home team.
This incensed Durham supremo Tom Smith, who refused to speak to Gary during the Wasps home leg. His ire increased when the Barons scored a last second goal to tie the game 6 – 6.
Unfortunately the team couldn’t maintain the momentum of their away form. In front of a sold out Hobbs Moat Road they lost 6 – 10 (12 – 16 on aggregate).
I had to make it all ticket.
We squeezed 2000 people into Hobbs Moat Road
with a queue outside waiting for returns.
Unfortunately the British players froze and we lost and that was the end of that.
So, Tom Smith had the last laugh, but the war of words continued, Tom giving Gary the nickname of
This amused Gary who promptly had a new advert produced and inserted into the Ice Hockey News Review.
Indiscipline (part 2)
However, once again the team’s indiscipline reared its ugly head. Nothing highlighted the problem more than in the first encounter with bitter rivals Peterborough Pirates. In a game that was ultimately to decide the Championship, the Barons racked up 107 penalty minutes to Peterborough’s 29. Unsurprisingly the Pirates won the game 13 – 6.
By seasons end the Barons had finished as runners up, 4 points behind the Peterborough Pirates. However that’s not quite the end of the story.
Crowtree, the wheels finally came off!
A game they were pretty confident of winning turned into a nightmare. The Crowtree Chiefs, in 3rd place, were 10 points behind the Barons and on paper it was the Barons for the taking. Unfortunately it didn’t go exactly to plan, after a 0 – 5 1st period, the Barons were defeated 6 – 14.
However, once again, the team’s indiscipline reared its ugly head. With just 2.37 left in the game the team walked off the ice and refused to return. Some ugly scenes then followed.
Subsequently the British Ice Hockey Association fined the club £300 and suspended team manager Paul Kane and forward Glen Skidmore. Other players were also suspended and warned about their future conduct.
After all of his warnings, Gary was so incensed that he decided to quit the club.
Gary Newbon – when enough is enough!
It became clear to Gary that his time with the Barons had come to an end.
He resigned as chairman and at the end of that season walked away. He already had to warn the team several times about their conduct and indiscipline and this was the final straw. He’d decided that enough was enough.
The negative publicity he personally received over the Barons had taken its toll. It was beginning to adversely affect his TV broadcasting career, he’d already been getting flak from his bosses at Central TV.
His time as an ice hockey team owner was over.
Vic Batchelder, owner and editor of the Ice Hockey News Review expertly summed up Gary’s brief hockey tenure, he wrote:
Like him or loathe him, it’s generally acknowledged in hockey circles that
has achieved something of a minor miracle
in just two seasons with
After over 50 years in broadcasting you’d think Gary would now be taking it easy. Not a chance, Gary continues to make guest appearances on various TV shows and even has his own Daily Mail Sports Show, hosted on Facebook. You’ll find some terrific and exclusive interviews with the biggest names in sport on the home of
The Gary Newbon Sports Show
Gary was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours, “for services to media, to sport and to charity”
There’s a brand new ice hockey book, by Chris Randall, due to be published later this month.
“ Wightlink Raiders – Simply the best”
is the story of the Isle of Wight’s now sadly disbanded Senior ice hockey team.
The book looks back at all 25 seasons and contains interviews and images of former players, volunteers and team owners.
It’s a must for any island supporter or ice hockey fan in general – I already have mine on order.
You can order yours by emailing Chris at:
You can also listen to Podcast interviews of former Solihull Barons alumni here:
New Patreon Patron
A big thank to new Patreon Patron Lee Scanlan
Lee joins an exclusive group of guys who help keep this show alive- thank you Lee.
As ever go to my regular Patrons
Paul Blackbourn, Tommy Boll, Oscar Brownsword, Rob Clayton, Colin Dunn, Suzie Hatch, Sean Holland, John Hulme Spry, Jim Murden, Jeff Povey,
Chris Saddington and Andrew Williamson
You really help keep the show alive, thank hanks guys it’s much appreciated.
Patreon – the info
You know I really love contacting former players and recording their hockey memories and then editing and producing this Podcast to bring those memories to you.
More importantly I know you love hearing them too.
We all love listening to those often hidden stories from inside the game, the stories that we, as fans, never get to hear.
Above all it really gives me a buzz every time I upload a brand new Podcast, knowing that you’ll remember and reminisce about those memories from your hockey heroes of the past.
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