This is a particularly interesting story from The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek, consisting of observations from members of the “London Lions,” an English hockey team that served as one of the Red Wings’ minor league affiliates in the 70’s:
The Lions were the brainchild of Red Wings owner Bruce Norris who wanted to start a European professional league. So Norris divided the Red Wings’ minor league teams in two: one would play in Virginia Beach in the AHL, the other would be based in London, England.
Norris entrusted the project to two men: Doug Barkley, who was coaching in the Red Wings system, and Al Coates, who in addition to being the team’s trainer was also the de facto travel secretary, equipment manager and jack of all trades.
The Lions played their home games at what was then known as Empire Pool in Wembley (northwest of London), an arena that housed the swimming events for the 1948 Summer Olympics. The ice surface had been installed over a wooden floor, placed atop the original swimming pool.
Because a figure skating show annually took up residence in the arena for three months every year before and after Christmas, the Lions became a barnstorming team from Dec. 1, 1973 until March 1, 1974, playing 41 consecutive road games in nine countries.
“It was really a travelling circus,” says forward Brian McCutcheon. “We were laughing about it being the longest road trip in hockey history; a real education — and we even got to go behind the Iron Curtain, which was a big black hole for us in those days.”