Canada pretty much rolled through the first six winter Olympics, winning 5 golds and 1 silver. They had a tough game against Britain while their chief competition occasionally came from the United States.
That all changed in 1956, as the Soviets entered their first Olympic hockey tournament. The hockey world changed almost over night. The Russians were instantly the new power in amateur hockey.
The Soviets, wearing their now-unfamiliar blue jerseys with the white V stripe, had Nikolai Puchkov in goal, the great tandem of Nikolai Sologubov and Ivan Tregubov on defense with high scoring Aleksei Guryshev, and Yevgeni Babich but make no mistake, this team was led by the great Vsevolod Bobrov.
Bobrov was the original "Russian Rocket," a nickname earned after favorable comparisons to Maurice Richard. A former bandy and football (soccer) star, Bobrov was a wonderful player who would later become the coach of the 1972 Summit Series Russian squad.
The Soviets were perfect in their very first go around, winning all 7 games, including a 2-0 shutout against Canada on February 4th. Canada outshot the Soviets 23-9, but goalie Puchkov was dominant.
The Canadian Dutchmen
Canada was represented by the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen, the two time defending Allan Cup champions. The CAHA had forgone the practice of automatically naming the Allan Cup champ as the Olympic representative. But the choice was easy in 1956 - there was no finer amateur team in the country.
The Dutchmen were led by Denis Brodeur in goal. He of course is now far better known as Martin Brodeur's father, and for his long career as the official photographer for the Montreal Canadiens. Keith Woodall was his partner, splitting the workload evenly. Woodall actually had a better tournament, allowing just 4 goals while getting 2 shutouts in his 4 games.
Otherwise this Bobby Bauer coached squad was strikingly anonymous. Art Hurst, Byrle Klinck, Howie Lee, Floyd Martin and captain Jack MacKenzie patrolled the back end. MacKenzie was particularly dominant with 7 goals and 12 points in 8 contests.
The offense was powered Jim Logan (8g, 15pts in 8 games), Paul Knox (7g, 14pts), Gerry Theberge (9g, 11pts), Ken Laufman (10 assists, 11pts) and George Scholes (5g, 10pts). Charlie Booker, Don Rope, Bob White, Billy Colvin and Buddy Horne also played up front.
The Surprising Americans
It was the Americans, not the Canadians, that won the silver medal, thanks largely to a 4-1 win over the Canadians on Jan. 31st. John Mayasich scored a hat trick, with Weldon Olson scoring the other goal. Goalie Williard Ikola stood on his head, facing 39 Canadian shots compared to the 29 Brodeur faced on the other end.
Other notable American players in 1956 included Gordon Christian and Bill Cleary.
Sweden finished 4th, with Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and Austria following suit.
Here's an amazing YouTube find - actual game footage from the 1956 Olympics:
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