Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Team Canada 1964 Robbed of a Medal

The cartoon that appeared in the Toronto Telegram upon conclusion of the 1964 Olympic hockey tournament said it all. Canada was robbed of a medal. For the first time in Olympic hockey history, Canada failed to win a medal. This was the first time Canada had utilized a true "national team" system by way of Father David Bauer. I wrote about their preparations here;

Going into the final game of the 1964 Games, Canada needed a victory over the undefeated Soviets in order to secure a Gold. Jumping out to a 1-0 lead not six minutes into the game on a goal by George Swarbrick, Canada got the start they desired. However, after exchanging  the first four goals, they entered the final period tied 2-2. In his autobiography "Hockey In Canada, The Way It Is", Canadian star Brian Conacher wrote of that final period. 
"So six months work came down to twenty minutes' effort. If we could beat Russia, our Czech loss (in the previous match) would be erased and we would win Gold. If we lost our country would only remember that we were not good enough to do the job. Between periods I thought that I would try to walk across water for Father Bauer if it would help win this game."

Alas, Russia scored 1:36 into the period on a goal from Veniamin Alexandrov and to quote Conacher, "We just didn't have the horses to get back in the remaining nineteen minutes. Every player played his guts out in that last period and no one will ever be able to say that the 1964 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team quit under pressure."

Truth be told, as much as they didn't quit, they sure failed to muster up much offence as the 3-2 score held up. The Russians out shot Canada 20-7 in the third, and if not for goaltender Seth Martin who had replaced starter Ken Broderick, the score would have been worse.

Conacher summed up the tournament;
"First place in the tournament went to Russia with her undefeated record of seven wins. Behind her were Canada, Czechoslovakia and Sweden, all tied for second place with five wins and two losses. We had reconciled ourselves to a respectable second place finish, while in fact we felt that Sweden and Czechoslovakia were lucky to share the Silver Medal with us.
While the final game between Sweden and Czechoslovakia was being played, it became obvious that there would be a three-way tie for second place. While the game was in progress, our friend Bunny Ahearne, President of the IIHF, decided it was time to change the rules. After the shuffle, Canada found herself demoted to fourth place. The sleight of hand Bunny was able to manipulate established that the final standing would be based on a goals for and against record in the event of two teams being tied.
It was nice to learn that the rules had been changed shortly before the medal presentations were to take place. If there was any merit in the formula that was adopted, there was certainly no fairness in the way it was adopted. It's pretty hard to remain idealistic when you're the victim of Bunny Ahearne and the IIHF. To say the least, I was disillusioned by the Olympic Games. By the time we left the village the day after the Games ended, I frankly wondered what it had all been for.

Marshall Johnston captured the spirit of our Olympic experience when he said to Father Bauer after we'd been robbed of a medal: 'It looks Father, as if the shepherd and his flock have been fleeced.' "

Fairly strong sentiment from Brian Conacher and fully understood. Father Bauer himself was quoted in the Montreal Gazette the following day as his team showed up at the medal presentations only to be denied one, "Come on fellas, let's get out of here. We're not getting anything so let's get out."

Perhaps as a small conciliation, Father Bauer did arrange a special trip for his boys on the way back to Canada. He managed to secure an audience at the Vatican with Pope Paul VI. Pictured below are a few of the players meeting the Pope.

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