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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 17:23 GMT
Rost reflective at 90
By Scarlett Elworthy

John and Sonny Rost
John Rost poses with his father Sonny in 1956
Any student of British ice hockey will tell you: Clarence "Sonny" Rost is a legend in the history of the game.

The former defenceman, who celebrated his 90th birthday this month, had a UK playing career which spanned nearly three decades, from 1934 to 1962.

Across the years, he led Wembley's two clubs - the Canadians/Monarchs and the Lions - to regular trophy success, starting with the National Tournament title in 1937-38 and ending with the Autumn Cup in 1957-58.

In total, Rost played more than 1000 games here either side of the war and was duly awarded a place in the British Ice Hockey hall of fame in 1955.

Clutching the promise of a good living as a professional player, Rost was in the first wave of Canadians who came to the UK in the early 1930's.

The domestic game was in its infancy. Although a Great Britain team started competing on the international stage in 1910, an English League was not formed for another 21 years.

THE ROST FILES
Name: Clarence "Sonny" Rost
Date of birth: 9 March, 1914
1934: Joins Wembley Canadians (renamed Monarchs in '36)
1937: Joins Wembley Lions and tours Europe beating many top teams
1946: Rejoins Monarchs
1950: Returns to Lions
1960-62: Guests for Streatham Royals and Richmond Ambassadors
1962: Rost hangs up his skates and sees out his hockey career coaching in the UK and abroad
2004: Rost's son John and two grandsons Warren Rost and Scott Moody are all involved in the game

"England was a long way away back then. From my home in Winnipeg it was two days and a night by train to Montreal then we spent two weeks aboard the Cunard liner Ascania," Rost recalls.

"But it was an adventure, the money was good and I felt things would work out."

The fearless Rost became a firm fans' favourite at Wembley Empire Pool and Sports Arena (plain old Wembley Arena from '76), regularly playing in front of 10,000-strong crowds.

He was a star. In 30's London, Rost's image was plastered over billboards in Piccadilly Circus advertising Gillette razor blades.

He was also earning more than the top footballers of the day.

"When I first arrived at Wembley Canadians I took home 5 a week. The football lads were getting a 1 less. Then they doubled my pay," he confirms.

Rost went on to tour Europe with Wembley Lions and famously beat the German national team in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the venue for the 1936 Olympic ice hockey tournament.

He was also part of a 1930's Lions side that strung together a 19-game unbeaten run over 21 days during a trip to Sweden - a sequence which included a win against one of the world's best sides - Russia.

Warren Rost
Sonny's grandson Warren Rost played for Jets and now coaches them
After hanging up his skates, Rost settled in Old Windsor and became a faithful follower of Slough Jets from the day they were founded in 1986.

The Jets have since become a family affair with his son John and two grandsons either managing or playing for the club, or both.

So how does Rost compare the game he played to the one now practiced by the younger generations?

"Standards are higher," he says. "Today they have the slapshot and the puck is being played at twice the speed.

"But the players are better protected - our kits were made of felt which used to get wet and heavy and drag you down."

Ice hockey has struggled to establish itself as a major sport in Britain but whatever the future holds Rost is sure about one thing - he will continue to watch the Jets.

"I go into the Slough dressing room every time they win," he reveals. "The players greet me with 'hello grandad' - that's special and I'm not ready to give that up yet."


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