January 17, 2014

1960 Olympics - Squaw Valley, USA

The tiny (and mostly undeveloped) Californian resort community of Squaw Valley were awarded the 1960 Winter Games back in the summer of 1955. They narrowly edged out Innsbruck, Austria.

Alexander Cushing spearheaded the bid once he learned Anchorage and Reno were preparing their own American bids. Somehow Cushing brought the world's greatest sporting spectacle to a a town with no mayor and possibly only one year round resident, that being Cushing himself. In fact, the only ski resort had just one chairlift, two rope tows, and a fifty-room lodge.

The decision to award these games to Squaw Valley instead of Innsbruck, which had much of the necessary infrastructure already in place, was only the first controversy. There were many complaints about venues and accommodations, all of which were built in a hurry. The scheduling, transportation, media handling and weather also contributed to what many consider to be the worst run Olympics in the history of the games.

The most positive legacy of these games was the Hollywood style celebrations of the games, which at the time was controversial in itself. But Walt Disney himself set the standard for the opening and closing ceremonies, now one of the most important spectacles of the Games.

Controversy In Hockey

Controversy spilled over to the hockey world, too. The schedule was described as "cruel," with teams asked to play 8 games in a span of 10 days. To make matters worse, the Blyth Arena, the only indoor hockey rink, was booked day and night for games and figure skating practices and events, forcing hockey practices to outdoor ice surfaces. The weather would not cooperate, as the warm temperatures and rain turned the ice into slush. Originally many of the games were scheduled for outdoors, though in the end only a few consolation round games were forced outside.

The Tournament

The hockey tournament remained unchanged from 1956. Nine teams competed, with the host Americans surprisingly winning the gold medal. Canada finished with silver and the USSR got bronze. Other nations involved were Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Japan and, no kidding, Australia.

American Gold

The Americans, backed by the awesome goaltending display of Jack McCartan and timely scoring of brother combinations Bill and Roger Christian (pictured above) and Bob and Bill Cleary, picture below, defeated Canada, USSR and Czechoslovakia in consecutive games to win the gold medal on home ice.

There was some friction between the two sets of brothers, who, along with McCartan and John Mayasich, were the stars of the team. While most of the team had competed all season for the right to play at the Olympics, Bill Cleary, decided he wanted to play late in the season. Because he was so good the American managers allowed it to happen, and to allow brother Bob to join the team too. Bob's inclusion created some friction on the tight American team, but ultimately Bill lead the Americans in scoring and was a major reason for the gold medal victory.

Make no mistake, the biggest reason for gold was goaltender Jack McCartan, who made 39 saves in a 2-1 win against the Canadians to all but give the Americans the championship. McCartan would be named as the tournament's top goaltender.

By the way, Bill Christian's son Dave would go on to his own notable career. In addition to becoming a NHL standout, Dave would be a major contributor to the 1980 Olympic gold medal winning American team.

There is an amazing documentary out on the 1960 "Forgotten Miracle" team:

Amateurs vs. Pros

The amateur vs. professional debate continued to rage. While the dishonest Soviets again essentially sent professional players disguised as amateurs, Canada foolishly insisted on taking true amateurs.

The Russians, featuring Venjamim Alexandrov, Alexander Almetov, Konstantin Loktev, Nikolai Sologubov and Nikolai Puchkov, would stumble in the medal round, tying the Swedes 2-2 and losing to Canada 8-5. They would be forced to settle for bronze in just their second Olympic hockey tournament.

Canada once again was represented by the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen, as the 1959 Allan Cup champion Whitby Dunlops declined the invitation to go to the Olympics. Dunlops captain Harry Sinden (pictured to the right) and Whitby teammates Bob Attersley, Fred Etcher (who would lead the tournament in scoring) and George Samolenko joined the Dutchies for the Olympics, as did Moe Benoit, Don Head and Jack and Jim Connelly from other teams. The original Dutchies team included future NHL star Darryl Sly, who at this time was working as a teacher in Elmira, Ontario.

Canada rolled through all the competition, even the Russians, but could not solve Jack McCartan and the host Americans. The Americans downed Canada 2-1 on February 25th to all but ensure the American gold medal.

Rousseau vs. Keon

The Montreal Canadiens made future NHL star Bobby Rousseau available for the Olympics, but the Dutchmen originally targeted future Toronto Maple Leafs great Dave Keon. Once it was clear that Keon would not be released from the St. Mike's Majors junior team in order to play with the national team for most of the season, they asked for and received Rousseau.

Brother vs. Brother

The 1960 Olympics featured a pretty rare occurrence when twin brothers Frantisek and Zdenek Tikal faced off on opposite sides of the ice. Frantisek was a star player for Czechoslovakia, but Zdenek had defected to Australia and taken the name Steve. For defecting Steve was considered to be a great traitor, and was the subject of violence when the two teams met in Squaw Valley. It may have been Frantisek, who had not seen his twin brother since the day he defected, who ended Steve's night with a big body check that forced the new Australian to leave the game with an injury.

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:

Anonymous said...

How can an article on the 1960 Olympic hockey competition not include any mention of the USA's 3-victory over the USSR, a game in which the USA actually out skated and outshot the USSR? Sports Illustrated's E.M. Swift has called the 1960 squad the best USA hockey squad of all time, and they remain the only USA Olympic squad to win every game on their schedule.