BORN ILARIO OSVALDO DEGHELLI IN 1924 IN ITALY, the son of Luisa Marina, he is known today as the father of Western Australian ice hockey. An Italian Scot, he arrived in Australia after a passionate love affair with the game as player and coach in Britain and Europe, where his 10-year experience included representing Sweden at the Olympics. A patron of the Premier ice rink in Perth from the time it opened late-1962, its Canadian manager asked if he would help set up an ice hockey league on the tiny square floor in the converted picture theatre. He jumped at the idea and early in 1963 about half-a-dozen prospective players responded to an ad, including Canadian Jim Gray and two Scots, Jim Bremner and Norm Taylor.
He guided the relaunch of ice hockey in the West, the first since the Fifties, on a woefully undersized rink with square corners, no boards, and plenty of holes covered with buckets. In no time at all, he and the players built boards on 3 sides of the rink, strung up a cray fishing net to protect spectators, and welded up a set of goals. They scrounged, begged, borrowed or crafted their own hockey equipment and by 1964, 4 teams consisting of 6 players each were competing 4 at a time on the tiny ice surface — Black Wings, Pirates, Vikings and Tigers.
He helped form the second WA Ice Hockey Association in 1965, but due to a lack of interest from eastern state counterparts, his rag-tag band of sandgropers were not invited to join the national association. He ran the sport under British rules and regulations, and even moved to affiliate with the British association, but logic won out and in 1967 the state became a probationary member of the national association. He was the first president in 1967, leading a committee consisting of Marty Grant, Norm Taylor, Jim Gray and Jim Bremner. They distributed a core of about 40 young players amongst 4 junior and 2 senior teams, including Lenny Savkos, Gus Sheridan, Greg Eeles, Neil Tuke and a young and tenacious Guy Grant.
He handled the bulk of the administration as president with secretary-treasurer, Jimmy Bremner, financing the association through carwashes, barbeques and raffles. A few Canadians drifted through and with them the odd piece of orthodox equipment. The arrival in the mid-70s of Canadian Bob Shouldice, Jon Borkowski from NSW and Lee Brailsford from Victoria provided his organisation with more experience on and off the ice. It was officially sanctioned by the national association in 1976, 11 years after founding, due largely to the support of Victoria's John Purcell.
He and Bremner coached the 12-man Brown Trophy team in Melbourne in 1977, WA's first representative ice hockey team. However, the un-uniformed band from the wild, wild west did not impress, and the team was not allowed to compete. Unfazed, he borrowed uniforms from the South Australians instead. Much to everyone's amazement, his team defeated a group of Victorians in a social exhibition match, and vowed to return to avenge the insult of rejection from their first national.
At the Brown Trophy in Brisbane in 1978, his charges failed to win a game, finishing last of 5 states. But they were not outclassed by any team and they even tied a game. Plus there were important spinoffs, such as the first WA player selected to the All-Star team and the Worlds in Spain in March 1979. The state missed the 1979 Brown Trophy series due to a lack of funds, but the 30-member association was by then playing A and B grades at both the Premier rink and the newly opened Skates at Fremantle. However, the A-grade Pirates and Flyers still contended with ice pads about one-sixth and one-eighth the regulation size.
The next year he handed over the association presidency to Jock Sinclair, and Canadian Bob Johnstone joined him in the coaching role. They introduced 6 months of dry land exercise and the State ice hockey team became a familiar fixture in local fun runs. His 1980 Brown Trophy squad might not have been the most skillful, but it was certainly the fittest. WA won its first ever ice hockey game against South Australia, and beat Queensland and NSW. They tied for first place and crushed the hapless Victorians 8-1 in the ABC televised grand final. WA hockey had arrived.
Larry Deghelli coached many other state teams, including the U13 national champs in 1983 with Jim Bremner, unbeaten and outscoring opponents 41 to 0, with 6 shutouts. That year his state hosted its first national tournament with teams from the ACT, NSW, Queensland and WA competing for the Brown Trophy. In the early-1980s, his A league expanded with the Bombers and Wildcats at the new Olympic-sized rink at Mirrabooka. His legacy is a state association now well-represented in every age band of national competition, in national leagues, and in international competition. He died at 71 in Perth in 1995 survived by his wife Joan. The trophy for the 55+ Division of the state old-timers league is named in his honour.
1. The 1980 squad was: Larry Deghelli (coach), Bob Johnstone (playing coach), Guy Grant (C), Mark Wiuthrich (A), Derrick Brown (A), Greg Eeles, Norm Mowbroy, Jon Borkowski, Dave Bell, Mike Cramer, Gary Easter, Jeff Marsh, Lee Brailsford, Alex Anuriw, Rolf Heldt, Bob Calder, Keith Sinclair, Warren Haslam, Len Savkos, Mike Christmass (G), Lincoln Paiva (G), S D Sinclair (Mgr).
Ross Carpenter, 'Deghelli, Larry (1924 - )', Legends of Australian Ice, Melbourne, Australia, http://icelegendsaustralia.com/legends-2/bio-deghelli.html, accessed online .
1. Some historical detail from the article The History of Ice Hockey in WA, June 1983, publication unknown.
2. 1983 WAIHA Hockey News, WA Ice Hockey Association
3. Metropolitan Cemeteries Board, Western Australia. KC00119195 Karrakatta Cemetery.