January 09, 2014

1920 - Hockey Debuts At Summer Olympics

Did you know that Ice Hockey's debut at the Olympics came in the Summer Games?

The first hockey Olympians competed in 1920 at the 7th (modern) Olympic games in Antwerp, Belgium. Why? Simple, really. There was no such thing as the Winter Olympics yet. Hockey and figure skating's success convinced the International Olympic Committee to create the Winter Games for 1924.

Ice Hockey was actually slated to be part of the 1916 Games in Berlin, but the onset of World War I cancelled those games.

The IOC wanted to include figure skating at the 1920 games, but not hockey originally. The managers of Antwerp's Le Palais de Glace refused to allow their building be used for figure skating unless hockey was included, too. Once the Belgium Olympic organizers secured a minimum 5 European countries to endorse the inclusion, the IOC had no choice but to welcome hockey. By today's standards hockey would have been considered a demonstration sport, but we still have to thank the Belgium hockey lovers for getting the sport included in the Olympics as early as it was.

Hockey at Le Palais de Glace certainly would have been an unique experience. Originally a roller rink, the ice surface was just 165 feet by 58 and 1/2 feet wide. It definitely was a figure skating rink if there ever was one. Just 800 spectators could witness the games, with the social elite were taken care of, of course. Patrons had the opportunity to sit at one end of the rink at dining tables so that they could watch the games while enjoying wine and dinner, as well as the music of a live orchestra that played throughout the game and into the night.

In addition to the first games to include hockey, these games were also the first to see an Olympic athlete take the Olympic oath, the first time the Olympic flag was flown and the first time doves were released in a symbol of peace.

The Falcons Fly High

Canada was represented by the Winnipeg Falcons, led by the great Frank Fredrickson. The Falcons were mostly represented by a group of marginalized Winnipegers of Icelandic descent. Joining Frederickson up front was Chris Fridfinnson, Slim Halderson, Huck Woodman and converted speed skater Mike Goodman. Bobby Benson and Connie Johannesson played on defense and Wally Byron tended the nets. Gordon Sigurjonson was the coach.

The Canadian Olympic Committee decided against sending an all star team of amateurs and instead sent the top amateur team in the country. That little carrot gave extra incentive to teams competing for the Allan Cup. The Falcons did just that, surprising the University of Toronto in the 1920 Allan Cup championships and earning the right to represent Canada at the Olympics, wearing yellow and black striped jerseys adorned with the red maple leaf.

Goodman The Good Showman

If Frederickson was the hockey star of the Olympics, Mike Goodman was the showman. He put on legendary skating displays, which should come as no surprise as he was the Canadian speed skating champion. The Swedish players were busy offering Canadian and American players good amounts of money for their hockey skates. The most sought after was Goodman, as he was so fast they figured the skates had to be somehow enhanced. Goodman never did sell his skates.

Beyond the speed he also showed up the figure skaters, putting on a display of trick skating during a figure skating event, even though he was not competing. The crowd demanded an encore from Goodman, but not from any of the figure skaters.

The Competition

The Falcons competition came from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. Under a very different tournament format than today, Canada won the gold after playing only three games. They defeated Czechoslovaks 15-0, USA 2-0, and Sweden 12-1.

The Swedes were basically new to hockey, though they, like the Russians 2o years later, were adept at bandy, a similar ball game on ice. The Swedes came prepared basically to play bandy, wearing speed skates and having never touched a hockey puck. But they were eager students, watching the Canadians practice and play games, and reportedly improved immensely as the tournament moved along.

That's more than you can say about the newly formed country of Czechoslovakia. William Hewitt, officially listed as Canada's secretary, suggested they ran on ice rather than skated, were very clumsy and never passed to one another.

The Americans

The American team, pictured above, offered Canada their only competition, as the 2-0 score suggests. Perhaps that was because the 11 man American roster included Canadian born players. Canada naturally disputed this, but as this was the first Olympic hockey competition, the American roster was ruled to be eligible. The Canadian-born players were Herb Drury, Joe McCormick, Lawrence McCormick and Frank "Red" Synott.

There were very few notable players on these other teams. Einar Svensson scored the only goal against Canada, and in doing so became a Swedish hero. Swiss goalie Rene Savoie stood out because he competed in a shirt and tie. French captain Albert de Raugh not only played in the games, but refereed the Canadian-American showdown after Canada protested the choice of the original referee, a Canadian born fellow named Garon. The Americans were powered by Frank "Moose" Goheen, who would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1952.

Olympic Hockey History

GreatestHockeyLegends.com is the home of an extensive history of Olympic hockey. You can view each Olympic hockey tournament (men's and women's) below by clicking on the year of your choice. You can also enjoy my profiles of Olympic Hockey Legends.

1920 - Antwerp, Belgium
1924 - Chamonix, France
1928 - St. Moritz, Switz.
1932 - Lake Placid, USA
1936 - G.P., Germany
1940 - No Games - WWII
1944 - No Games - WWII
1948 - St. Moritz, Switz.
1952 - Oslo, Norway
1956 - Cortina, Italy
1960 - Squaw Valley, USA
1964 - Innsbruck, Austria
1968 - Grenoble, France
1972 - Sapporo, Japan
1976 - Innsbruck, Austria
1980 - Lake Placid, USA
1984 - Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
1988 - Calgary, Canada
1992 - Albertville, France
1994 - Lillehammer, Norway
1998 - Nagano, Japan
2002 - Salt Lake City, USA
2006 - Torino, Italy

2010 - Vancouver, Canada

1 comment:

Mike Wyman said...

Nice piece. I'm assuming that's William (Father of Foster) Hewitt who was involved with the Czech team.