Monday, January 18, 2010

Olympic Hockey, 1920

Ice hockey first appeared as a demonstration Olympic event at the 1920 summer games in Antwerp, Belgium and it was not until 1983 that the IOC declared the results of that tournament "official" in their eyes. Participating countries were Belgium, France, Switzerland, Czechoslavakia and Sweden joined Canada and the U.S.

Each match consisted of two twenty minute halves and there was no "changing on the fly" permitted. The indoor rink measured 185 by 59 feet, narrow by today's standards.

Legendary announcer Foster Hewitt's father, W.A. Hewitt was Secretary of the Canadian team and would referee the first ever Olympic hockey game between Belgium and Sweden. The elder Hewitt commented on the 'equipment' of the Swedes, "They dressed like soccer players, did not wear shoulder, elbow or shin pads...their goaltender wore what looked like a cross between a blacksmith's apron and an aviator's coat."

Canada was represented by the Winnipeg Falcons who had defeated University of Toronto in the Allan Cup. The Falcons were still in Toronto when they received word they would be representing Canada at the Olympics. There was no time to return to Winnipeg so each player was given $25 in clothing allowance. They set sail from Saint John, New Brunswick with cured wood they had purchased in Montreal. The ship's carpenter fashioned two dozen sticks for them to use in Europe. They arrived in Antwerp, Belgium on April 14 and were rousingly greeted by the Belgians as six members of the Falcons had fought in France and Belgium in World War One.

The Falcons were led by Frank Fredrickson who had scored 22 goals in 6 games in the Allan Cup and added 12 in 3 games at the Olympics. He would return home to turn professional with the Victoria Arisocrats of the Pacific Coast League, playing six seasons. He moved to the NHL at age 31 with the entire Victoria team to become the Detroit Cougars in 1926/27. In all he would score 73 NHL points in 161 games and 193 points in 163 Pacific League games winning a Stanley Cup with both Victoria and the Boston Bruins.

Falcon defenseman Haldor "Slim" Halderson would notch 9 goals in the 3 Olympic games and joined Fredrickson in Victoria. He won a Cup with Victoria as well and played one NHL season split between the Detroit Falcons and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Falcons beat Czechoslovakia in their first game 15-0 without allowing even one shot on goal. They also beat Sweden 12-1 and the U.S. 2-0 in the defacto gold medal match. The Czechs would be awarded the bronze on the strength of a 1-0 victory over Sweden. Overall the Czechs managed a medal despite being outscored 31-1 in their three games.

In one Olympic match, the U.S defeated Switzerland 29-0 including two goals scored while shorthanded TWO men. President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, 46 year old Max Sillig played for the Swiss becoming the only IOC president to play in an Olympics while holding office.

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