Ken Armstrong celebrates the Wild’s 2019 Laidler Division title win with, now, wife Amanda. (Photo by Geoff White)
The recent 2019/20 season saw four Widnes Wild players reach important milestones in their playing careers, with Ken Armstrong and Tom Jackson reaching 200 appearances for the Wild and Dan Bracegirdle and Mike Mawer both notching up 100 games.
“King” Ken Armstrong is a highly popular personality around the club and has been there since the very first game back in August 2013. Having originally played his junior hockey at Altrincham, he played some 80 English League games for the Lancashire Raptors and Blackburn Eagles teams before joining the brand new Widnes set up 7 summers ago.
Back then the Raptors and the Eagles were “development teams” – rather like the current Blackburn Hawks2 team – and were geared up to giving younger players experience of playing rather than challenging for trophies and, as such, they tended to struggle at the bottom of the league year in year out.
Commenting on his decision to join the Wild, Armstrong said:
“After playing at Blackburn for a few years and not winning many games I had the chance to come to Widnes and play with one of my best mates who I’d never had the opportunity to play hockey with (Calum Ruddick). So we both signed for Widnes – and then Blackburn went on to win the league…!”
Looking back to that first game – which ended up as 1-6 defeat to a highly experienced Sheffield Spartans team – he said:
“I don’t really remember much about the first game, apart from the rink being packed and the fans were crazy. I think a lot had come straight from the Widnes Vikings Rugby League game so were fairly tipsy. They didn’t really know much about ice hockey but seemed to be having fun. The first season overall went quite well for a new team. A lot of the lads already knew each other so it was good.”
Armstrong has seen many players come and go over the seven seasons that he has been at the Wild – but who were the best…?
“That’s a hard question because we’ve had a lot of really good players over the years that have all had different impacts on the team in different ways. The best individual player would be Scott McKenzie. But then when Ollie Barron, Stuart Brittle and Nick Manning were playing together they were very impressive.”
Asked about his favourite memories from his 200+ games at Widnes, Ken said:
“My favourite memories in my time with the Wild would be winning the league title and playoffs and also the team nights out we’ve had because it’s a really good group of lads.”
Looking back over the current Laidler Division season, he said:
“This year was a strange one. Having lost a coach, starting goalie and pretty much a full 1st line of players from the previous title winning team, it was always going to be a tough season. If the season hadn’t got cut short and we had got to play all our games, we would have more than likely finished in the top 2 and, after a bad season, that’s not that bad. I think my own season went alright – nothing special, I just got on with it!”
By the end of the current 2019/20 Laidler Division season, Ken Armstrong had notched up an incredible 220 games for Widnes Wild, scoring 21 goals, 28 assists and picking up 48 penalty minutes.
Talking about his award for having passed 200 games, he said:
“Getting to the 200 games milestone is something I’m proud of and couldn’t have done it without all the coaches that picked me for the team. Hopefully I can carry on playing and add to that.”