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Lest We Forget: Hockey And War

Here are four special stories from the vault for Remembrance Day.

War has made a significant impact on hockey history.

The NHL has continued play through many conflicts, with the two World Wars having the most profound effect on the league. Many players interrupted their careers, either voluntarily or through conscription, for military service. With so many players serving during World War II, the NHL debated shutting the league down. But at the urging of both the Canadian and US governments, the NHL announced prior to 1942-43 season that the league would continue to operate "in the interest of public morale."  FULL STORY

Bob Carse was a promising hockey player out of Edmonton by winter, a gas station manager by summer.

He never fulfilled his NHL hockey promise because of World War II. He was one of the first professional hockey players to enroll in basic military training. He was quickly identified as a promising rifleman, and by August 1944 he was pulled off the ice and sent overseas, one of the few NHLers to see dangerous warfare action on the fields of Europe.

Dangerous indeed. In October his wife received a a telegram dated October 12th, 1944 stating that Carse's status was officially listed as Missing In Action. In actuality, he was wounded with a bullet to the shoulder, and captured by Nazi forces. Bob Carse, by this time a four year veteran of the Chicago Blackhawks, was a prisoner of war.   FULL STORY

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 enviable position to be in. But Saprunoff was fortunate to have the Smoke Eaters jersey with him, as it earned him a German friend.  FULL STORY

It is safe to say controversy reigned supreme in the 1936 Olympics, hosted by Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

This is Rudy 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 infour 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 where 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.  FULL STORY


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