Mike Hargreaves calls time on 26-year senior career

Bristol Pitbulls NIHL 2’s game against Peterborough Phantoms NIHL 2 last Saturday was Mike Hargreaves’ 331st, and last, game for the club.

It also brought down the curtain on a senior career that stretches back to 1998, making him one of the few remaining active players whose rookie season was in the previous millennium.

The whole Hargreaves family were introduced to ice hockey back in the early 1990s when a player for the Bristol Bulldogs, Paul Farmer, was a neighbour.

All three siblings quickly showed an aptitude for the sport while they played up through the Bristol junior system. So much so that Mike eventually stepped up to the stronger Cardiff junior system.

With no senior hockey available in Bristol, in 1998, Mike headed over to the Isle of Wight’s tiny ice pad for his rookie senior season, playing for the Raiders in the newly formed English Premier League.

Mike initially spent five years on the island – years that he remembers with great fondness. The highlight came in that final season when the team won the EPL Cup. It would be the first of four trophies that Mike would win as a senior player.

2009/10 ENL2S Trophy

His next home ice was Swindon in 2003, where he spent three-and-a-half seasons, the latter two as assistant captain.

A season and a half back on the island and another in Oxford book-ended the first half of his career, as a return of senior hockey to Bristol in 2009 allowed Mike to finally come home after 11 seasons away.

After spending his whole career so far as a forward, Mike stepped back to the blueline at Bristol to add an old head to a team that lacked experience in defence.

That experience also saw him named the team’s first captain, another first for him. It was a role that allowed him to be the player to collect the team’s first ever trophy, the ENL South Division 2.

The irony of finally being allowed to return to his home city to play hockey just in time to see the rink close and force him back onto the road for the next eight seasons isn’t lost on Mike.

Oxford became a willing host for the Pitbulls through those seasons – something that Bristol ice hockey will always be thankful for. But it did mean that there were nights where no team travelled further to their games than Bristol, despite Bristol technically being the home team.

Celebrating the 2014/15 league/play-off double

Despite their difficult situation, they were years in which Mike helped provide the backbone on the ice to a team competitive enough to win a league/play-off double. The league title coming, appropriately enough, in an away game on the Isle of Wight.

But, despite not playing in Bristol, these were important years for the club as they provided the platform from which Bristol’s new rink got built.

Mike’s contribution to keeping the team alive was felt as much off-ice as it was on. So much so, that the biggest highlight of his career came in 2021 when he finally got to skate out into the rink that now becomes the biggest part of his legacy.

Skating out onto the ice at the new rink in Bristol for the team’s first-ever home game

It also allowed him to win his final trophy in his home city when the Pitbulls won the Division 2 title in 2023.

As he skated off the ice for the final time, to a guard of honour supplied by both his own team-mates and those from the Peterborough Phantoms NIHL 2, he did so as the franchise record holder for most games played for Pitbulls, and as a key builder for the sport in his home city.

Everyone at England Ice Hockey wishes Mike all the best in his retirements and offers thanks for everything he did for the sport of ice hockey in Bristol.

Words by Graham Goodman.

Photo credit: Flyfifer Photography

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