BORN NOEL BURLEY IN 1928, he grew up in the town of Rosedale near Melbourne but went to school in Sale, which was 30km away by pushbike and goods train. It was too far, so his parents switched him to Trinity Grammar School in Melbourne, and from then, after a short stint in the Navy, it was on to university to study Commerce. He married Nancy at the All Saints' Church of England in St Kilda then sailed to London where she trained with Jacques Gershweiler. She and Patricia Molony became the nation's first Olympic Figure Skaters at the 1952 Oslo Games.
He founded Burley Ice Rinks in 1964 and began creating ice floors for the American company, Ice Capades, which toured all cities of Australia during 1964 and '65. He installed his first public ice skating rink in Albury NSW in 1965. Then came Moorabbin in Melbourne in 1966. In 1970, he constructed Ringwood Iceland in Melbourne, the second purpose-built ice skating rink in Australia after Melbourne Glaciarium, which had been completed 64 years earlier in 1906. It became a social hub beyond recreational skating. It had a restaurant and put on live music every Sunday night.
Through his Ringwood skating centre, he also had a brief career as a boxing promoter. In 1975 former world champion Lionel Rose was making a comeback and his manager, Jack Rennie, who was having trouble with established boxing stadiums, approached him to promote a bout with the popular fighter. Pat thought he could make a go of it, and put on a fight at Iceland and later between Rose and South African, Blakeney Matthews, at the Melbourne Olympic swimming centre. Pat floated a boxing ring in the middle of the Olympic pool with colourful speed boats surrounding it.
In the late-1970s, he was the driving force of the Australian Rink Owner's Association and its regular newsletter "Australian Skating News". He was the architect of inter-rink hockey during these years, with one team competing from each rink under the name of their district, dressed in new uniforms designed by Vic Ekberg. His State League series competed for the Burley Cup quite independent of the VIHA season.
He purchased the Dandenong Colisseum ice skating rink that had been set up in a converted factory on the South Gippsland Highway in Melbourne. He opened another Melbourne rink in a converted vegetable market at Footscray in 1978, a few hundred metres from Footscray Town Hall. He and the rink association transformed his State League series into the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) in 1980, powered for a few seasons in several states by the commercial acumen of the rink operators.
First he persuaded other rink-owners to get on board and share the costs, then he arranged sponsorship from Coca- Cola, and convinced the ABC to televise the league. Although the venture never really took off, Pat’s appetite for growing his business knew no bounds. The enduring spectacle of the Burley rinks are forever etched on the memories of many, many fans. Skaters were propelled over the ice by the hard rock assault of bands such as Dragon, Rose Tattoo and AC-DC, while a new wave of fans devoted their weekends to interstate hockey rivalry led by imported stars.
In 1980 he twice put The Mike Walsh Show on ice in the Sydney Nine studios, while promoting the new NIHL. In 1983 he converted a Wool Store in Ballarat, Victoria to a full-size ice skating rink. He also operated the famous Prince Alfred Park ice skating rink in Sydney for 11 years, along with the Prince Alfred Park swimming pool. His aggressive media promotions and television appearances pursued new angles and a feverish pitch in search of a free-to-air television audience.
He had a personal commitment to develop ice hockey as a top sport in Australia. "I don't want to criticise any officials," he said at the time, "But the game needed and needs professional thinking and administration. It is only just getting it now." His business constructed temporary ice rinks around the world for companies such as the Moscow Circus, Disney on Ice and exclusively, The Torvil and Dean Show.
In 1996 his son-in-law, daughter and he constructed Iceland Bundall on the Gold Coast. Today the family-owned company lives on through his children and grandchildren and has installed ice rinks at Southbank in Melbourne and Fox Studios in Sydney. In 2008, he was inducted to the Ice Skating Hall of Fame along with wife and daughters. Few ice entrepreneurs before him had painted such a vision, let alone built it.
Ross Carpenter, 'Burely, Pat (1928 - )', Legends of Australian Ice, Melbourne, Australia, http://icelegendsaustralia.com/legends-2/bio-burley-p.html, accessed online .
Icelander: Pat Burley and the temples of hope, Legends of Australian Ice, Ross Carpenter, Online
Sydney, 1980. Back, from left: Hon K G Booth (Minister for Sport and Recreation), Phil Ginsberg (President NSWIHA), Pat Burley (Managing Director, Iceland Rinks and sponsor) and Col Gelling (Coca Cola, sponsor). Front, from left: Peter Aitken, Dan "Cowboy" Pedersen, Canadian Trail Blazer, Brian Kosher. Photo by Lindy Lewis, courtesy Dan Pedersen.