Richie and Mike Hargreaves, first and second on the all-time list for games played, have agreed to return for the 2021-22 season.

It was Richie Hargreaves’s vision that started the Bristol Pitbulls back in 2009 and his drive, and more than a little stubbornness, that saw him push through nine years without a home rink.

Before starting the Pitbulls, Richie played at every level in the country. In fact, when the Pitbulls entered Division 2 in 2009, he became the first player ever to have appeared in a game in each of British ice hockey’s four levels. The highlight was appearing for four consecutive years in the Elite League and there was also a Premier League championship with Slough Jets in 2008.

But it is his years in Bristol where his impact is most felt. In his time with the club, he has played more games than any other player (286), recorded more assists (301) and points (439) and received more penalty minutes (1008). All while being responsible for making sure the team took the ice each season.

He has also been the team’s only Head Coach before Jamie Elson took over for the 2021-22 season.

Richie’s number 37 jerseys are being Owned and Loaned by Stuart Latham. He is available for player sponsorship through our Adopt a Pitbull programme. Email sponsorship@bristolpitbulls.co.uk for more details.

Mike is one of only three players to have played in each of the Bristol Pitbulls eleven seasons. With 269 games, only his brother has played more games for the club. He was also the first captain to lift silverware for the club when Bristol won the old Division 2 title in 2010.

Despite playing his early career as a forward, Mike stepped back to provide experience in the team’s early defensive line-ups. It was a role that he immediately became comfortable in and has stayed there throughout his Bristol Pitbulls career.

However, after years of having to play on the road, the excitement of finally coming back to Bristol means the enthusiasm is as strong as it ever was.

Mike Hargreaves said: “I can’t believe we are actually coming home. It’s been a long time coming and I can’t wait to skate for Bristol in Bristol again.

“Playing on the road these past years has been tough, but fun. We’ve had our ups and downs. However, winning the conference and then the playoffs against Slough has to be one of my favourite parts of this journey.

“Having spoken to Coach, I’m really excited by the direction the team is going. A lot of depth, speed and exciting skill coming into the team and I will be expecting us to really shake up the league!

“It’s going to be strange not have Dicky run the bench or myself having the input into games I would usually have on the bench. I’ve spent the last few years assisting Dicky and running the defence lines, getting blamed for a lot of thing I didn’t feel were my fault. However now Jamie’s running the show, I can concentrate on playing and hopefully he will not be as mean!”

As two of the team’s “elder statesmen”, the new dressing room is now acting as a reminder of the relentless passage of time for the Hargreaves brothers. In 2003, both shared the Swindon Lynx dressing room with Gareth Endicott. Richie joined them both two years later. This season, they will share it with Gareth’s son, Oli.

Mike said: “We have a team WhatsApp group and I’ve already made my feelings known about the age of these kids coming in. However it will be strange hanging out with them in the bar after games and ignoring their parents, some of them are even old team mates of mine, as I pretend I’m still young and cool. Do kids say cool anymore?”

Mike’s number 22 jerseys are all being Owned and Loaned by Makka’s Bar. He is still available for player sponsorship. Email Richie Hargreaves at sponsorship@bristolpitbulls.co.uk for more details.

Pitbulls Head Coach, Jamie Elson, said: “Was there any way we could put a team together for this year, back in Bristol and in our brand-new home, without having Mike and Rich part of the group after everything they have done to get the Pitbull’s to this point?

“The whole Pitbulls journey up to this point wouldn’t have happened without them and it’s obviously exciting for everyone to see the team return to Bristol. But for Mike, Richie and Becci it’s everything they have worked for so long.   They are just as excited and looking forward to returning to the ice to play as everyone else.

“With us deciding to invest in our future with a young team this season it was also vital for us to have some clear experience and leadership amongst the group.  Mike and Rich are as experienced as they come with over 1500 senior games between them.

“They are both leaders in their own right and will obviously be guys that will always put the team first in every situation.  I know they are both excited by the young group and talent level we have put together and will be able to help support these younger guys as they transition in senior hockey with us.  They will both be able to pass advice on to guys and help teach them.   I know I will be leaning on them a lot and speak to them on an almost daily basis already about players and the league as we look to complete our line-up for the year ahead.

“It’s going to be a special moment when we step out for our first home game in Bristol in the new rink, and I couldn’t imagine us doing that without #37 and #22 leading us out.”