BORN JULY 21ST 1936 in Carlton, Melbourne, to Henry George and Maria Carmel (Noonan), he attended St Joseph's Technical College in North Melbourne where he was captain of the school football team. His interest in skating began at the old Glaciarium when he was about 14. After winning the inter-school football competition, Brother Jack Hanlon wanted him to continue, but distracted with the ice, and sent home after an explosion in the science lab, he never returned.
He started hockey with the Raiders juniors in the early-1950s and became a close friend of winger John Thomas who was his own age. A 170cm (5' 7") tall left-handed forward, with blue eyes and fair hair, he was a sales rep with Peter Jackson's in Little Bourke Street and Barclay Men's Wear, and a player in the 1953 Raiders premiership team in the Victorian league. He played with the Demons in 1956, then Raiders-Hakoah-Arkana later that year, the club that morphed from the Raiders into the Melbourne Jets. "We were Glaciarium," he says matter-of-factly. "Had to win against St Moritz clubs...
"... About half the Raiders were local players," he continues. "Kevin McIntyre, Colin Frape, Rus Jones, Arthur Loughran, Geoff Henke and others. Carol Martin only played with Wembley juniors in England. They often stayed at our place before the game. We were close to the rink and my mother loved the boys around... The Europeans (New Australians) raised the bar for us local players and not just in the team, throughout the league and interstate. We played the European game and it was very hard for opponents to keep up without following suit. You lifted. You didn't want to let them down."
Chosen at the age of 23 for the first Australian National Team to compete in the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, Max Hannah (Monarchs), Keith Jose (Blackhawks) and he were late cuts. The team developing in Victoria in those years was ready four years earlier for the 1956 Games in Cortina. Thirty was the average age of the 1960 squad that went away, with only seven of the seventeen players in their twenties. "Here, you deserve this," said Team Manager Rus Carson on his return, handing him a 1960 Olympic Medal. Inscribed on the back was Carson's name.
In 1962, he was one of 12 Victorians selected for the Australian National Ice Hockey Team, playing wing at 25 in the B-Pool World Championships at Colorado and Denver, USA. The average age of this squad was also thirty, but there were more players in their twenties. He played wing for Australia in the nation's first international victory against Denmark at Denver Coliseum. After the tournament, he traveled on to Tahiti, raising Carson's ire sufficiently to prevent him from touring with Hakoah to New Zealand in July 1963. A written apology resolved the matter soon after.
He won back-to-back premierships with Hakoah in 1963 and '64, during the years the Monarchs and the Blackhawks dominated. He was team captain in 1963 when the Club won their first premiership and the National as underdogs against Glebe Lions (NSW), coached by Australia's first Winter Olympian, Ken Kennedy. He recalls Kennedy's attitude towards the Victorians never recovered from the loss.
During the Sixties, he delivered soda syphon bottles and the new Courage beer to pubs with Cliff Anderson (Pirates) and Graham Hall for former ice hockey player, Lindsay Fox (Linfox)."We were not meant to be drinking, and here I was delivering it." Proud to have driven Fox's first truck, he was near to tears when he saw it years later in the Fox Classic Car Museum, with pictures of the early drivers on the front seat, including Paula (Fox), Lindsay, Cliff and Graham. "Lindsay Fox was a very good player. He gave away hockey for football."
At the end of one season, Harris drove all the way to Sydney to play more hockey, only to discover a closed rink. He coached juniors and still recalls in the late-70s the owner of the new Dandenong Coliseum asking him to buy a membership. "You want me to by a membership," he says in mock disbelief, "when I come here three times a week to coach your juniors?" He was also a regular skater in the Glaciarium ice shows.
In 2018, after a wide-ranging and sometimes moving conversation, a fit and tanned 81 year-old Kevin Harris says the bun of silver hair is "... a bet with my son to see who cuts it first." A fast skater with an excellent shot, Harris won five Goodall Cups representing Victoria — 1962, '65, '66, '67 and '68. "Hockey was the making of me," he notes for the record, referring to enduring friendships of almost seventy years
1 In 1950 in Victoria, the arrival of so many players with overseas experience led local teams to follow the "modern trend" of hockey and play the five-man game. The red line at centre ice had just been introduced to speed up the game and reduce offside calls. It was the rule that many consider marks the beginning of the modern era in the NHL, and it was put in place so players could pass the puck out of their own zone, which had previously been illegal. Scoring averages in the NHL went from 2.5 goals per game in the late-30s, to 4.08 gpg in 1944, the first year of the new line. Delayed penalty rules were also introduced at this time.
2 The Victorians stripped two complete playing combinations of 5 men for the first time making the goalkeeper the only man who remained on the ice for the entire game. This made a huge difference to the speed of the game. "Attacks are still being made in the last period with all the spectacular speed and aggression that in the past we have expected only in the early stages". New South Wales did not follow suit for many years and this was a key factor in Victoria's domination of the Goodall Cup after the war.
3 NSW player Rob Dewhurst was Scottish and did not have international clearance so could not play when he arrived in Squaw Valley in 1960.
Ross Carpenter, 'Harris, Kevin (1936 - )', Legends of Australian Ice, Melbourne, Australia, http://icelegendsaustralia.com/legends-2/bio-harris.html, accessed online .
1 All quotes and some biographical detail from conversation, Kevin Harris, January 3rd, 2018.
2 News cuttings and related correspondence, Kevin Harris private collection, Raiders and Hakoah years, with thanks to Beryl Black.
3 Australia's Red Letter Day: March 15th 1962, 2015, Ross Carpenter. Online
4 The Glass Slipper: Australian Ice Hockey at the Olympics, 2015, Ross Carpenter. Online