It is safe to say controversy reigned supreme in the 1936 Olympics, hosted by Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The twin villages were granted the games over Montreal and St. Moritz.
This is Rudi Ball, the 25 year old was the captain of the 1936 Olympic team, his second time at the Olympics. When his career ended he would be one of the most decorated German players of all time, with 8 German championships, a 1932 Olympic bronze medal and participation in four time world championships under his belt. In 1930 the French Sports Magazine labelled him the best hockey player in Europe. Ball and his brothers Gerhard and Heinz were hockey heroes in Germany.
There was one big problem in 1936 though. Adolf Hitler's Germany was hosting the Olympics, and his hatred Jewish people and other minorities was becoming world-renowned. Ball, a legend of hockey in Germany and the team captain, was of Jewish descent.
The Germans initially refused to include Ball, no doubt an order from a government official much higher up than the hockey officials. That's when Gustav Jaenecke, Ball's good friend and teammate not to mention a real hockey star, stepped in. He refused to play unless Ball was included.
Without Ball and Jaenecke the Germans knew there was no chance they could repeat as Olympic medalists on home ice. They wanted to win as many medals as possible, to display their superiority. They allowed Ball to play, and allowed his family to leave Germany and flee the coming horrors of the Nazis.
The Germans finished in 5th place, thanks largely to an injury suffered by Ball which ended his tournament prematurely.
Ball was one of only two Jewish athletes to represent Germany at the 1936 games. Helene Mayer, a fencer, also represented Germany despite her Jewish heritage and despite living in the United States since 1933. She won a silver medal.
Other Notable Players
Before we move on to the main protagonists on the ice, Canada and Britain, let's take a quick look at the more notable players for other countries.
Japan featured a goaltender, Teiji Honma, wearing a rarely seen mask.
Czechoslovakia had a strong team led by Josef Malecek and Ladislav Trojak.
The United States won the bronze with no notable players in history's eyes. John Garrison Gordon Smith had returned from the 1932 team.
Germany had a player who likely had the longest name in Olympic hockey history - Joachim Albrecht von Bethmann-Hollweg.
Austria, Hungary, Latvia and Sweden also participated.
Many of the games were played in front of sparse crowds on the natural ice of the frozen Lake Riessersee. Canada's first game was played in a blinding snowstorm, with the game delayed for several minutes while they once tried to find the puck.
Controversy In Canada
Long before the Olympics even began there was controversy in Canada.
The Canadians were unable to send the 1935 Allan Cup champion Halifax Wolverines, as too many of their players had moved away and were now playing with different teams. So Canada selected the Allan Cup runner-ups, the Port Arthur Bear Cats, but with one stipulation: the CAHA could add players to the roster if they wished.
The Bear Cats were another team with no notable players to mention, then or now. Jakie Nash was their goalie. Ray Milton and captain Herman Murray played defense. Alexander Sinclair, Bill Deacon, Ralph St. Germain, Dave Neville, Bill Thomson and Ken Farmer made up the forward spots. Norm Friday and Gus Saxberg made the trip but did not play. The Cats were coached by former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Al Pudas.
The CAHA initially wanted four Halifax hold-overs to join the team - Sylvester Bubar, Vic Ferguson, Chummy Lawlor and Ernie Mosher. But they balked, demanding $150 a month for three months to compensate their loss of wages and family time. Since that would not fly in the face of amateur status, they were dropped. Added instead were Pud Kitchen of the Toronto Dukes, Hugh Farquharson of the Montreal Victorias, Dinty Moore of the Port Colborne Sailors and Jim Haggarty, a one time Bear Cat now playing for the Wembley Canadians in Britain.
Controversy in Britain
The Port Arthur Bear Cats may not have even been the best Canadian hockey players at the 1936 Olympics. That title may have gone to the Great Britain team, who invited several British born athletes who grew up and played hockey in Canada. These players included Art Child, James Chappell, and Archibald Stinchcombe, all of whom secured permission of the CAHA beforehand, and noted scorer Alex Archer and superb goaltender Jimmy Foster, who did not.
Canada protested the inclusion of Archer and Foster. Canada would drop their complaints three days into the Olympics, in "the interest of Olympic spirit." They also secured an agreement preventing countries, specifically Britain, from borrowing other countries athletes on the basis of birthplace, not by residency or citizenship.
Britain's Controversial Gold Medal
Archer and Foster would be allowed to play, and that would come back to bite Canada. Great Britain upset Canada 2-1 in the preliminary round. That's where even more controversy erupted.
Olympic officials opted to read the rule book differently than Canada and other nations had assumed they were playing with, screwing the Canadians in the process. In "one of the worst manipulations in sporting history" the Olympic authorities announced after the second round was over that second round matches would count in third round medal matches. Thus, Canada would not get a chance to take on Britain again and avenge the loss. With Britain winning their remaining games, there was no chance for Canada to capture the gold medal.
Britain became the first nation other than Canada to win gold at Olympic ice hockey. Here's two different photographs of the British team:
Here's some amazing YouTube footage of the game between Canada and the USA: