Saturday, January 23, 2010

1948 Olympic Hockey almost cancelled


This is what the headline read in a Canadian Press story dated Jan. 30, 1948. The controversy involved the United States sending TWO hockey teams to St.Moritz, Switzerland. Each team claimed to be the country's representative, the conflict almost cancelled the entire tournament.
In the thoroughly detailed book "Gold Medal Misfits" by Pat MacAdam, the whole scenario is explained.

It seems two different athletic bodies in the U.S. laid claim to the right to send a hockey squad to the 1948 Games. In 1947 the Amateur Hockey Association (AHA) replaced the American Athletic Union (AAU) as the United States' member of the International Ice Hockey Federation. The IIHF and the Swiss Olympic Committee each recognized the AHA as the governing body in the U.S. However, the head of the International Olympic Committee, ex-American decathlete Avery Brundage sided with the AAU. Brundage termed the AHA team "an outlaw organization" and deemed that it allowed professionals to play. The Brundage supported AAU team was made up of players from Ivy league school Dartmouth. In fact they were extremely deep in talent with Dartmouth having dominated U.S. college hockey in the 1940's (between 1941 and 1946 they went 46 games without a loss). Indeed, while sending one team to St. Moritz, they still had enough talent to stock a team in college play back home.

Bunny Ahearne of the IIHF declared that if the un-recognized AAU were to play, all other countries would go down the road to Davos and stage the World Championships in lieu of the Olympics.

Brundage finally caved in two hours before the Olympic flame was lit and allowed the AHA team to play. The tournament was not recognized as official by the IOC until Feb 7, 1948 when each country had already played seven games. Eventually the U.S. team would be summarily disqualified after finishing in fourth place.
Some believe that if both American teams had joined into one squad, they would have easily won the gold medal in '48.

Canada, represented by the Royal Canadian Air Force ended up winning gold with seven wins and a tie in eight games. They finished with an identical record to Czechoslovakia after a 0-0 tie against the Czechs. Canada won the gold on the strength of a higher goals for divided by goals against quotient. This was the tie breaking formula at the time as opposed to a simple goals differential. Canada was 69 goals for, 5 against for a quotient of 13.8 and the Czechs were 80 for, 18 against for 4.44.

Canada's Walter Halder led the tournament in scoring with 21 goals and 8 assists over the 8 games. Team U.S.A. forward Jack Kirrane would in fact return to the Olympics to captain the U.S. to a gold medal at Squaw Valley in 1960.

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