Skip to main content

How A Hockey Sweater Saved A World War II Prisoner Of War

This is a replica jersey of the 1939 World Champion Trail Smoke Eaters. That jersey may have saved the life of the Canadian prisoner of war in World War II.

Prior to the start of World War II the Smokies went on a barnstorming tour of Europe and then represented Canada at the World Championships. Upon their successful return to British Columbia, Smoke Eater Mickey Brennan gave his well worn sweater to fan Steve Saprunoff as a souvenir.

Saprunoff later enrolled in the Canadian Air Force, and was called into action in Europe in World War II. He always wore his trusty Smoke Eaters jersey on missions. Even on the day in 1944 his plane was shot down in German territory and he became prisoner of war.

Obviously, being a POW is not an envious position to be in. But Saprunoff was fortunate to have the Smoke Eaters jersey with him, as it earned him a German friend.

The prison guard recognized Saprunoff's Smoke Eaters' jersey. It seems that the guard had seen the Smoke Eaters play in Berlin on Christmas Day, 1938. The guard held the Smokies in high regard, and took pity on his prisoner. The guard would provide extra food for Saprunoff until he and the other prisoners were transferred to another internment camp.

I learned this amazing story reading Dave Holland's amazing self-published book Canada On Ice: The World Hockey Championships 1920-2008. There are a few great stories in the book.

I've reviewed the book over at Hockey Book Reviews.com. Check out the full review.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M