imjin style

imjin crawl

When the Second Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry shipped out to help fight the war in Korea in 1950, they didn’t take any hockey equipment with them. This worried the assistant quartermaster, who liked to be ready for any contingency. The regimental welfare officer was less concerned. The war didn’t sound like it was going so well for our side. “It looks as though if we do land there,” Lieutenant William Campbell said, “we’ll be much too busy now to worry about hockey.”

That the Princess Pats and many other of the Canadian 27,000 servicemen who served in the Korean War did find time for hockey is now the stuff of legend. The winter made them a rink on the Imjin River, not far from the front, with U.S. artillery booming for a background. They scraped together a collection skates and sticks, dropped the puck. Eventually, the Defence Minister, Brooke Claxton, got the message and in early 1952 ordered that 100 sets of equipment be delivered to the troops, stat. And so they were: the RCAF’s 426 Squadron got the job done. In March, the 1st Battalion of the Princess Pats won the championship of the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade over a team from the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment.

2013 is the Year of the Korean War veteran. This month, the Canadian embassy in South Korea is marking the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the war with, among other things, an outdoor hockey game in central Seoul and an exhibition commemorating Canadian hockey on the Imjin. That’s not all: yesterday in Ottawa there was shinny on the canal to remember the soldiers and the hockey they played. Princess Pats made up one of the teams — that seems only right — with a roster boasting a pair of brigadier-generals and seven lieutenant-colonels, including one named Ed Staniowski, who used to tend nets for the St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets, and Hartford Whalers before he took to soldiering. A team of Parliamentarians and Senators provided the opposition, led by Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs.

About the photo: the Canadians didn’t mind sharing their gear, apparently. Shown here are players from a game between Australian and New Zealand troops played on March 6, 1952. The record is mum on whether they were non-skaters or maybe, the charitable view, could they have been performing a Maori haka?

(Photo: Library and Archives Canada, PA-184724)