Paul Linton, photo taken from the Oxford Mail front page (22nd May 1985)
In their 31 year history, only one shirt number has ever been retired by the Oxford City Stars. That was the number 11 shirt that was briefly worn by forward Paul Linton in their inaugural season before he was tragically killed. Tonight, Oxford’s newest import Ondrej Pekarik skated out at the Riverside in his new shirt – and to the anger of several long-time Stars fans he was wearing the number 11.
Paul Linton was killed on a night out in London in May 1985. Just one month after the Stars had won the playoffs in the old British Division 2 at their first attempt. An aggressive forward on the ice, off the ice he was described as ‘one of the nicest people’ by then coach Urban Johansson. As a mark of respect to Paul’s memory, his No. 11 shirt was immediately retired and the old bar at the ice rink was renamed as ‘The Linton Bar’.
Yet if you look at the Stars website now – you won’t find a single mention of Paul or the retirement of the Number 11 shirt. We have to ask why the current management committee of the Stars recently chose to delete the page that informed supporters of the shirt retirement and the reason behind it.
Fusion (the company that runs Oxford Ice Rink) also need to hang their heads – when the new bar opened at the ice rink, a request was put in to honour the naming of the bar and was refused. In addition, no framed shirt is allowed to be hung in the ice rink (it had been previously requested during my time with the club).
To be fair to coach Simon Anderson, as soon as he realised what had happened he tweeted “Apologies guys I was not aware of this when I sent the info over. #11 will not be worn again.Sorry for any offence!” which was exactly the right response. There has been nothing but silence from the official twitter account of the club however.
But you have to ask how Simon Anderson was supposed to know as it looks like Paul’s memory has been scrubbed from Oxford’s history over the summer. In all honesty, it’s not the coach’s job to keep track of stuff like this – as soon as the number 11 shirt was requested, information should have been sent back down the line saying ‘sorry, no’. But it appears that the current management committee do not consider this something worth remembering.
It sounds like Simon Anderson at least understands the importance of honouring Linton’s memory and it is good to know that number 11 will go back into retirement. My only hope is that this incident will lead to Paul Linton again being recognised as an important part of the history of Oxford City Stars and maybe the management of both the Stars and the rink will seek to rectify the current situation. Until then – we’ve added a page to our website with the information so that this history is preserved for those interested in reading more.