It’s time to right one of the greatest wrongs in hockey history
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the most spectacular international hockey series of all time: Team Canada vs. the Soviet Union, in which Paul Henderson achieved immortality by scoring the winning goal in the last three consecutive games. .
But before this team gets the well-deserved attention it will receive, I want to bring to your attention the story of another Canadian hockey team, whose tournament should have ended with a handover ceremony. medals, but did not. And it is high time to rectify this injustice.
Let’s go back to the 1950s and 1960s. After dominating international hockey for decades, Canada was losing its place on the world stage. The point was that other countries, like the Soviet Union, enlisted players in the military and enrolled them in one-year hockey programs. Our best players were all in the National Hockey League and, as professionals, they were not allowed to participate in international events. So we started sending hastily assembled amateur teams who would lose regularly.
In the early 1960s, legendary St. Michael’s Majors coach Father David Bauer convinced Canada’s amateur hockey leaders to let him establish a national program in which our best amateur players could spend a year together and train. a team, preparing them to be more competitive in international tournaments. It was Father Bauer’s players who traveled to Innsbruck, Austria, in January 1964 to represent Canada at the Olympic Winter Games.
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Nothing about the players on this team suggested they were destined for greatness. In the dozens of matches used for tune-ups for the Olympics, they barely won more than they lost; even then, they won against lower junior players.
But something happened when the team arrived in Austria. They got good. Very well. Before you knew it, they were a legitimate gold medal threat.
These Olympics, however, turned out to be somewhat cursed for Canada. For example, a Swedish player who had broken his stick threw it towards the Canadian bench, where he hit Father Bauer and cut his forehead. Bauer insisted his team not seek retaliation; in fact, in an incredible display of sportsmanship, he saw two other teams play the next day, accompanied by the swedish player who had injured him.
Next, Canada was playing one of its best hockey games against Czechoslovakia when one of the Czech players âranâ Canada’s goalie, Seth Martin, knocking him out. Canada’s substitute arrived at cold and couldn’t match Martin’s heroism – Canada lost the game.
But the worst was to come. In the tournament’s most anticipated game, against the Soviet Union, Canada dominated for just two periods only to see their lead disappear in the third after a controversial penalty call left the team shorthanded. The USSR ultimately won 3-2, winning the gold medal.
There were now three countries tied for second place: Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Canada. The rules suggested that the difference between goals scored and allowed should be used to break the tie. By this account, Sweden won the silver medal.
But then international politics intervened in the worst possible way. In the third period of the Canada-USSR game, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, John âBunnyâ Ahearne, decided to interpret the rules differently. Instead of taking all taking into account goals for and against teams, he decided to only take into account the goals for and against of the top four teams. With this new interpretation in place, the bronze medal now belonged to the Czechs and not to the Canadians.
Canada’s numbers were not as strong as those of other countries: the gentleman Father Bauer refused to let his players climb the score against lower countries. As a result, other countries scored more than the Canadians as they did not hesitate to kick the lower teams.
The chicane was so bizarre and last minute that the Czechs did not even show up for the medal ceremony. They thought they would come in fourth, so why bother? The Team Canada players arrived for the medal ceremony in formal dress ready to claim their bronze medals, but they were told, sorry, you guys are coming home with nothing.
It was a poorly kept secret at the time that Ahearne was right about Canada, was tired of seeing Canada dominate and was happy to find a last minute trick to stop the Canucks from winning a medal. Father Bauer, who could smell political mischief a mile away, responded with his typical grace and humility and simply urged his defendants to leave Austria with their heads held high.
Over the years Hockey Canada, which oversees amateur competition here, has made half-hearted efforts to right this injustice, but has failed to convince the IIHF to reconsider Canada’s case. The federation hid behind the idea that, if they were to consider this claim by Canada, other countries would want to protest against this, that or the other. So he let the problem lie.
The problem, of course, is that the players from Canada, who acquitted themselves so well there, are now in the late 70s, early 80s or dead. And they lose hope that their legitimate claims for medal justice will be recognized during their lifetime.
Four members of this 64-person Canadian hockey team gathered last week for an online chat on a show called Hockey time machine. They remembered how much they enjoyed playing for their country and expressed their disappointment that, all these decades later, nothing had been done to rectify the situation.
âI don’t think Hockey Canada wants to move forward,â said Paul Conlin, 78, who is now a lawyer in Ottawa. He’s tired of trying to defend his cause and that of his teammates.
It’s a particularly bitter pill to swallow for surviving team members, given that professional NHL players have now taken over in international tournaments. Father Bauer’s team were the last group of amateurs to play for Canada prior to the 1972 Summit Series. These men still want Canadians to know that they represented their country honorably during the 1964 Olympics – without pay. – and that they should be duly recognized with the bronze medals they believe they have won. Most players may have had the proverbial âcup of coffeeâ in the NHL. But, overall, it was the most important hockey experience of their lives. And the absence of a just ending to their story always erodes.
âThe fact that we still have meetings every two or three years shows that we still cherish the memories we have with each other,â said Barry MacKenzie, now 80, who competed in the Olympics in 64 and 68 and can be found in the IIHF lobby. glory. “We still think we won gold even though we only won bronze.”
Every day of his life, 80-year-old Marshall Johnston, who actually won a bronze medal at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, Switzerland, looks at a photo from that 68-year-old medal ceremony. He doesn’t smile on the picture. Four years later, he was still amazed at how he and his teammates got kicked out of bronze in Innsbruck.
âI didn’t want to smile in ’64 or ’68,” said Johnston. âWe had a lot of disappointments.
Even for Rod Seiling, who played almost 1,000 games in the NHL and was part of the immortal Team Canada in 1972, the lack of resolution around this issue stings 58 years later.
âWhen you stand on your blue line and listen to your national anthem, it gives you a real sense of pride and accomplishment,â said Seiling, who turns 77 next month. âBut it’s a big hole what happened in that last game and the way it went. We deserved to be medalists. And it was taken from us. We haven’t lost. He was taken from us.
Seiling can’t help but remember this scandal every day of his life. He lives in Waterloo on, if you can believe it, Father David Bauer Drive.
It seems clear that the IIHF has no desire to revisit this issue. And Hockey Canada doesn’t seem to want to spend its money there either.
The solution is simple. Hockey Canada should forget about pursuing its cause internationally and just knocking out a few bronze medals to give to the surviving team members. Hold a ceremony. Do it well. The 58th anniversary of the Innsbruck Olympics is approaching in January and February. Now would be the perfect time to right one of the greatest wrongs in hockey history.
We will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Team Canada’s 1972 victory over the Soviets in massive numbers next year – and rightly so. But what about, before we do that we get some justice for a former Team Canada who has represented us well and deserves better.
Go Hockey Canada. Strike the cursed medals. Do it.