by Bruce Cherney (part 3)
In a February 18 Associated Press (AP) article, Gustavus T. Kirby, treasurer of the United States Olympic Committee, said Great Britain showed a “lack of sportsmanship” by using Canadian-trained hockey players, who he considered to be professionals, at the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
“The amateur sport of hockey, as I see it, is threatened,” he said. “Nobody can convince me that all these Canadian boys went to Europe to play hockey by coincidence.
“The English played Canadian stars on their team on the theory that they were born in England, and once an Englishman, always an Englishman.”
The Canadians, according to Kirby, “backed and filled” on the issue of England’s determination to play Foster and Archer.
The AP reported that the Canadians had buckled after a period of only two days as a result of considerable pressure exerted by “British Olympic higher-ups,” who threatened to withdraw from the Games if former Winnipeggers, Jimmy Foster and Alex Archer, weren’t allowed to play. The British officials also threatened to have Jimmy Haggarty declared ineligible since he had played in the English hockey league. The threat to lose a star player of their own also contributed to the Canadian decision to remove their protest.
Whatever protests were made by other nations, the International Hockey Federation (IHF) allowed Foster and Archer to continue to play for Great Britain.
Canada was represented at the Games by the Port Arthur (now Thunder bay) Bearcats, when the 1935 Allan Cup champion Halifax Wolverines were unavailable. At the time, the previous year’s winners of the Allan Cup represented Canada at the Olympics.
The Bearcats were the Allan Cup runner-ups in 1935. The team’s line-up for the Olympics was bolstered by players from other Ontario centres and Montreal. Jimmy Haggarty, a former Port Arthur centre then playing in England, was also added to the “all-star team” roster that was primarily compiled by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA). Bearcats’ coach Albert “Puddy” Pudas (born in Finland, but came to Canada with his parents as an 18-month-old infant) was named as the coach of the Canadian Olympic team.
Four Halifax players were earlier selected to join the Bearcats for their Olympic bid, but they were removed from the team by the CAHA for allegedly asking for financial assistance of $150 for three months of missing work (besides the Olympics, the team would be touring Europe to play numerous exhibition games after the Winter Games) in order to provide remuneration for their families (termed broken-time payments). The charge was denied by the Halifax players, but to no avail. The CAHA decision caused an uproar in the Maritimes, with allegations circulating that the Wolverine players were being unfairly treated in favour of Central Canadian players.
In a series of telegrams to Halifax, the CAHA’s Gilroy stated that players were only provided travel and accommodation expenses, and that the CAHA didn’t provide for expenses for players’ families.
Following the Winter Games, Canadian Olympic Committee official P.J. Mulqueen asserted that the Canadian hockey players had not spent any money granted by the Canadian Parliament to the nation’s athletes, but paid their own expenses with the help of donations from people living in the communities in which they resided. He claimed that the only money spent from the grant was for alterations to their uniforms.
Even before the CAHA rulings, several Halifax players from the Allan Cup winning team had abandoned amateur hockey to play professionally. Other players had moved away from Halifax in the off-season. In effect, that made the depleted Wolverines side unavailable for the Olympics. While the CAHA decided that the Bearcats should go to Germany, it was a decision marred by controversy.
The Montreal Royals, who lost the 1935 Allan Cup Eastern championship to the Halifax Wolverines, claimed they played a more competitive game with the Wolverines than Port Arthur, so they wanted to play a two-game series against the Bearcats to determine who would represent Canada in the Olympic Games. But the CAHA decision made this challenge moot.
A total of 15 nations competed in the 1936 Winter Olympics. Even teams from Italy, Latvia, Hungary, Yugoslavia (since broken down into numerous nations) and Japan vied for the Olympic hockey crown.
Tickets for the matches during the Games were so popular that they sold out within seven days of being released for sale.
The first game played by Canada was a 11-0 victory over Latvia (another later rout was a 15-0 win over Hungary). The only surprise of this match was that a heavy storm dropped several inches of snow on the ice surface of the outdoor arena on Lake Riessersee. As a result, the game began in less than desirable conditions, although the storm did abate and the rink was cleared and the ice surface was in relatively “good” condition for much of the game. Only 10 hockey games were played on the outdoor arena in the 1936 Olympics, while the other games were played in an artificial ice arena built specifically for the Olympics.
“Most of the spectators — there were not many as the game was the first of the day’s programme — left convinced Canada has a stranglehold on the Olympic title which she has had at every Olympiad ...” (CP-AP, February 8).
It was a far from prophetic statement.
Canada won all three of the games it had played in the first round and found itself pitted against Great Britain, Germany and Hungary in the second round, which was classified as the semi-finals.
In the end, the first defeat for a Canadian team on the international stage would lead to Canada’s demise as Olympic champions.
“The goal-tending brilliance of Jimmy Foster, an ex-Winnipeg boy playing for England under a cloud of controversy, sent Canada’s Olympic hockey team down to an amazing 2-1 defeat Tuesday night,” reported the CP on February 12.
“Far superior in every department excepting in goal, the Canadian hosts directed an incessant barrage on the Old Country net before tumbling to their first defeat of the international winter games.”
“Canadian star beats Canadians,” commented the February 17 Ottawa Journal on the goaltending of Foster.
Apparently, Canadian hockey officials were surprised when they saw both Foster and Archer in the line-up for Great Britain. They had not expected the British Ice Hockey Association (BIHA) to play the men blacklisted by the CAHA in the name of sportsmanship, and had been assured as such by the BIHA via an earlier telegram that if they withdrew their protest neither Foster or Archer would suit up against Canada at the Games (Ottawa Journal, February 18, 1936).
Even Avery Brundage expressed surprise that the British had used Foster and Archer against Canada after the Canadians had agreed to waive their suspensions for the duration of the Olympics. It had been expected that the English officials would have been sporting enough to decline to use the two players, according to the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee (Winnipeg Tribune, February 26, 1936).
(Next week: part 4)