Club History

The Bracknell Bees were formed in 1987, under the ownership of John Nike OBE.  

The club started out in the Heineken League Division Two, under the leadership of Jamie Crapper, where, in their first season, they finished sixth. The following season the second division was renamed the English League Division 1. The Bees finished runners up in the league in their second season but then won the league the following season, gaining promotion to the Heineken League Division 1. Having finished third in the next league campaign the club gained promotion progressed to the top tier of British hockey, the Heineken Premier Division, via the play-offs.

The Bees settled into regular mid-table finishes for a number of season before being relegated in 1995.  A new beginning for the club started with the arrival of new head coach Jim Fuyarchuck.   The Bees finished third in the first division but missed out in the promotion play-offs.   The following season however saw big changes as the new Ice Hockey Superleague (ISL) was formed as the country's first fully professional league in over forty years.

The Bees, facing bigger teams with bigger arenas were expected to struggle but an impressive sixth place out of eight was followed up by a third place finish in year two.   Year three saw a fourth place finish.   In 1999/2000 though the Bracknell Bees pulled off the impossible dream and won the Superleague title.

Unfortunately the success was short-lived as the Championship winning coach (Dave Whistle) and the core of the team were lured away with lucrative offers.  The Bees did manage a solid third place the year after but from this point on the Bees never looked like being one of the big teams again.  The Bees eventually left the Superleague at the end of the 2002/03 season as the league folded with Manchester and Ayr having also left.

The Bees moved to the British National League (BNL) and were instantly expected to be one of the contenders for the title. It wasn't to be though as they finished fourth in their first season.   The club went on to win the league and cup double in their second season in the BNL.

Following the double trophy winning season John Nike announced that he was no longer going to be funding the Bees. A local Estate Agent, David Taylor stepped in to take over the club having been a sponsor of the Bees.   Along with his wife Sharon and coach Mike Ellis, they set up a new club. Mr Nike granted them a licence to use the name "Bracknell Bees" for marketing purposes for a three-year period.  The Bees were forced to join the English Premier Ice Hockey League (EPIHL), along wit ha number of other clubs, as the BNL ceased with teams leaving to join the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) leaving the remaining clubs to join the EPIHL.

In their first season in the EPIHL the Bees finished fifth in the league and made it to the play-off final but losing out in the final. The Bees did however go one better in the EPIHL Cup, winning the two legged final.  Mike Ellis departed in May 2006 and was replaced by his assistant, Ryan Aldridge and only ten months later the Bees won the EPIHL League title this was followed up with the EPIHL Playoff title too in the same season.

In December 2007 David & Sharon Taylor relinquished the operating licence for the Bracknell Bees due to off-ice difficulties.  At the time in spite of the off ice difficulties, the Bees were sitting in second place in the league and were already through to the semi-finals of the EPIHL Cup.  Within a week of the Taylors departure Bees fan Katie Eleftheriou and Bracknell Bees Supporters Club Chairman Stuart Robinson took over the operating licence and came up with a rescue plan to see the club through to the end of the season,.  The club successfully completed the season, finishing third in the league, winning the EPIHL Cup (for a second time) and finishing runners up in the play-offs.

Into the 2008–09 season and the club finished in fifth place in the before going out of the play-offs in the two-legged quarter final.   The Bees also reached the semi-final of the EPIHL Cup but again lost out.  During the 2008/2009 season, Eleftheriou and Robinson announced that they would not continue to run the Bees beyond the end of the campaign but in the absence of any alternative owner coming forward Eleftheriou and Robinson announced that they would continue with revised budgets, rather than see the club fold. 

With little time to build a new team, Bees recruited Claude Dumas as player coach but the side struggled that season and Dumas took the decision to retire from hockey at the end of the 2009/10 season.   Gareth Cox was selected as the new head coach having been the coach the Bracknell Hornets (English National League) side for a number of years previously and  leading them to a playoff title before moving to the Bees.  Things didn't go to plan however and the Bees finished the season at the bottom of the EPIHL league table.

The 2011/12 season saw the return of Lukas Smital, a former Bee and Cox's former assistant coach with the Bracknell Hornets. Smítal was already the head coach of the Bracknell Junior Ice Hockey Club (BIHC) and upon his return to the Bees, also took on the role of head coach to their senior team the Bracknell Hornets, while Cox also took on the head coach role with the Under 18 team, Bracknell Drones. Together, the pair set about rebuilding the Bees from the bottom up and the club showed a big improvement on the ice and doubled their points haul from the previous season, they did however again miss out on the post-season playoffs, finishing ninth out of ten in the league.

2012/13 saw coach Gareth Cox choosing to just tweak his squad slightly, these worked and the Bees made the play-offs, with a sixth place league finish.   It wasn't to be though as the Bees lost out in the quarter-finals.

Eleftheriou and Robinson left the club in April 2013 and a new group, Precision Sports Marketing (PSM), were confirmed as the license holders the following month for the 2013/14 season.  The re-signed Head Coach Gareth Cox and Player/Assistant Coach Lukas Smital.   Mid-season head coach, Gareth Cox was released and replaced by his assistant Lukas Smital.  Despite some player changes during the season the Bees again managed to make the post-season playoffs, having finished eight in the league.   Again however they lost out in the quarter-finals.

The 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons saw the club struggle both on and off the ice and the Bees finished ninth and then tenth in the league and struggled for the most part despite the efforts of the young and talented squad.  Precision Sports Marketing (PSM) did not renew the license with the John Nike Group at the close of the 2015/15 season and a fans committee stepped forward and were successful in efforts to save the club and enter a team into the EPIHL again for the 2016/17 season.

The 2016/17 season was one of stabilising and rebuilding under the new management of Bees Live Ltd.   Lukas Smital remained as Player/Head Coach and the team looked to steady things both on and off the ice.   On the ice the team finished ninth in the league, failing to make the Playoffs, and won only a handful of games all season.   The games they did win however did see some notable scalps along the way.   Off ice the club were financially stable and had set about building better links with the Bracknell Ice Hockey Club (BIHC) and the John Nike Leisuresport Group (operators of the rink) and come the end of the season had completed their stated goal of stabilising the club at all levels.    

League turmoil at the end of the 2016/17 season saw the English Premier Ice Hockey League collapse and the Bees, along with several other EPIHL teams, made the move to the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL).   The Bees would compete out of the NIHL Division 1 South league for the upcoming 2017/18 season.   Head Coach Lukas Smital departed the club and Scott Spearing was appointed the new Head Coach for the Bees first season in the newly re-organised NIHL.    He set about recruiting a team with a blend of youth and experience as the club looked forward to the new challenge in their new home league.

You can view the Bracknell Bees previous seasons statistics HERE (courtesy of www.eliteprospects.com)