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Olympic hockey — Winnipeggers played for Great Britain
Feb 27, 2014
by Bruce Cherney (part 2)
Percy Nicklin had coached the two-time Allan Cup winning Moncton Hawks and was lured to England to coach not only the Richmond Hawks of the top English hockey league, but the British Olympic team at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. It was Nicklin who convinced goaltender Jimmy Foster, formerly of Winnipeg, to come to play in England.
At the February 1936 Winter Olympic Games, forward Alex Archer, another former resident of Winnipeg, joined Foster on the British hockey team. Archer was born in West Ham, London, England, on May 1, 1911, and came to Winnipeg with his parents at the age of three. In Winnipeg, he learned to play soccer and hockey and went to England to join the Wembley Lions of the British elite hockey league for the 1935-36 season.
In another quirk of hockey history, Nicklin, who was born in Fort William, had lived in Winnipeg for years (his son Jeff was an all-star back with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1934 to 1940; a paratrooper in the Canadian Army, Jeff was killed in action during the Second World on March 24, 1945) and been a player on numerous local clubs, including the Winnipeg Monarchs, before taking on  coaching duties in Moncton and then England.
Few can now argue against Foster’s or Archer’s desire to go to England to play hockey, as they were offered  high-paying jobs — the Great Depression made such jobs on both sides of the Atlantic scarce — and could also maintain their amateur status. In 1935, the NHL’s Montreal Maroons offered Foster a pro contract, but he turned it down in favour of going to Britain.
Although the Canadians playing hockey in Britain could loosely be termed professionals, or “shamateurs” in the vernacular describing players in the mirky region between professional and amateur ranks, Bunny Ahearne, the head of the British Ice Hockey Association (BIHA), used his strong influence in the International Hockey Federation (IHF) to ensure that they were always considered amateurs when playing international hockey.
Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) registrar, W.A. Hewitt, had informed the British prior to the Olympics that both Foster and Archer had been suspended by the Canadian association because they hadn’t asked for and obtained transfers from the CAHA to play overseas. He said this fact made them ineligible under IHF rules to play for Britain, and Canada and Great Britain were members of the IHF.
“We were told by the BIHA that English teams had decided there was a loophole in the International Hockey Federation and that Foster and Archer were eligible,” said Hewitt (CP, February 6, 1936).
“The so-called loophole was that an amendment to international rules was passed stating transfers were required by players who moved during the season. It would seem to mean players moving between seasons did not require transfers. But CAHA rules are plain enough and our decisions have effect under the international organization.”
A Canadian player on the British team was defenceman Gordon “Don” Dailley, who was born in Winnipeg on July 24, 1911, and was educated at St. John’s College and at the University of Manitoba. Dailley played for a longer period in the British league (since 1933) than Foster and Archer and had been given a transfer by the CAHA. Art Child, James Chappell, and Archibald Stinchcombe, also secured permission from the CAHA beforehand in order to compete for Britain.
“Canada suspended the players (Foster and Archer) for good reason,” said Avery Brundage, head of the United States Olympic Committee. “I can’t see how the others can do anything and support Canada ...
“The Americans will have enough on their hands meeting one Canadian team. They don’t want to face two.”
The Canadian protest was approved by a 47-3 IHF vote, and Foster and Archer were suspended.
Yet, the IHF playing ban on Foster and Archer was lifted when Canadian Olympic officials decided to remove their protest and allow them to play in the spirit of “good sportsmanship” — it was a plunder that would cost Canada the gold medal.
“If we can’t produce a team good enough to win the Olympics,” said E.A. Gilroy, the president of the CAHA, who was from Portage la Prairie, in justification of the Canadian decision, “we should be ashamed, since Canada is the birthplace of hockey” (CP, February 10).
In the interim, Gilroy charged that “British hockey is a racket.” In addition, he accused the BIHA of being “unsportsmanlike.”
Even though the IHF lifted its ban when Canada removed its protest, other nations were less charitable, as Switzerland, Czechoslovakia (now divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia), France and Germany wanted the IHF to continue the players’ suspensions.
Actually, many of the European teams had some Canadians in their line-ups or were coached by Canadians. And it is understandable why the French were opposed to the British using Canadian-trained players, as the French government denied granting citizenship to three Canadians recruited to play on their nation’s Olympic team, since they had not lived in France “for a sufficient time.”
“The decision came as a severe blow to France’s hopes for a championship team” (CP  January 15, 1936). “It was pointed out here that Great Britain has nine Canadian hockey players in the Olympics, Czechoslovakia also has several Canadians on its team, who have received naturalization from the Prague government.” The latter assertion was denied by the Czechs.
(Next week: part 3)