winterspiele 1936: boston strong

usa afloat

Manhattan Project: The U.S. hockey team aboard the SS Manhattan as hey prepare to sail from New York on January 3, 1936. (Back, left to right) Malcolm McAlpin, Fred Kammer, Phil Labatte, Frank Stubbs, John Lax, Frank Shaughnessy, manager Walter Brown. (Front, left to right) Paul Rowe, Tom Moone, Frank Spain, Elbridge Ross, Gordon Smith. Missing is Johnny Garrison.

The Americans took a more orderly approach to compiling their team for the German Olympics in 1936. That’s how it looked, anyway, compared to what went on in Canada.

Walter Brown was the man in charge, from Boston, where he managed the Boston Garden. He’d led the U.S. to their first hockey world championship in 1933 in Prague; later, he’d also buy the Bruins, help launch the Basketball Association of America, and found the Celtics. In the fall of 1935, his job started with winnowing down the 1,000 hockey players who’d been nominated for Olympic consideration to a more manageable 59.

They came from across the hockey-playing map, Benjamin Langmaid and Audley Tuten, Rauld Morton, Frank Megaffin. In early December Brown brought them to New Haven, Connecticut, for a try-out camp incorporating three exhibition games. Following those tests — against Yale, New York’s St. Nicholas club, and Princeton — Brown and two colleagues would select 13 players for the tournament.

The squad they came up with had a strong Boston flavour, and included three men who’d helped the U.S. win a silver medal at the 1932 games at Lake Placid. Their initial line-up looked like this:

Goal
Jerry Cosby (New York); Tom Moone (Boston Olympics)

Defence
Johnny Garrison (Boston Olympics); Frank Shaughnessy (Montreal Victorias); Phil Labatte (University of Minnesota)

Centre
John Lax, Frank Spain (Boston Olympics); Ding Palmer (St. Nicholas)

Right Wing
Elbridge Ross (Colby College); Gordon Smith, Frank Stubbs (Boston Olympics)

Left Wing
Paul Rowe (Boston Olympics); Mike Baldwin, Ding Palmer (St. Nicholas)

That list shifted a little before the team sailed for Europe in early January: Jerry Cosby had to drop out, leaving Tom Moone as the only goaltender, and Ding Palmer was excused, too, with Malcolm McAlpin from New York brought in for him.

While they were still at home, Walter Brown had his charges on a frenetic schedule. In Boston, two days after Christmas, they played three different area teams in three successive periods. They beat North Cambridge 3-1 in the first, followed by Worcester Club 5-0, before ending the night with a 6-1 dismissal of the University City Club. The combined 14-2 victory was, The Boston Daily Globe reported, quite an evening’s work for the Olympic outfit, even if they were only seen to extend themselves when a goal seemed likely. Frank Spain got three of those, along with five assists on the night.

us aThey went to New York on the last day of the year and word of the game they played there carried up to Canada. Brown’s men, it seemed, had beaten the New York Rovers by a score of 2-0. This was news, and seen as potentially worrying for the Canadians: the Rovers were co-leaders of the Eastern Amateur League, with a line-up handpicked from various Western Canada clubs by Lester Patrick, Ranger manager. True, the game was a truncated one, limited to two 15-minute periods, and the Rovers were in the middle of a schedule that would see them skating four nights out of five, but still, the Rovers couldn’t get going against the Olympic squad owing to the close checking of the Americans and the clever goalkeeping of Tom Moone.

A breathless Canadian Press report from the southern front was also making news in Canada, revealing that the Boston Olympics team for which many of the American Olympians were drawn had long been furtively coached by Frank Patrick and Art Ross from the Bruins with the specific, traitorous aim of overthrowing Canada at the Olympics. To wit:

At the end of last season the team was being whipped into first–class shape when a visiting reporter wandered into the Garden rink there one Sunday afternoon and found the prospective Olympians in the midst of a secret practice. The wandering news hound was heaved out twice before slipping in and remaining unobserved to watch the proceedings. The opposition furnished the Olympic candidates was provided by veteran amateurs and French-Canadians living nearby. The latter were generally led by Joe Patrick, son of Frank.

The brain-trusters apparently realized they had not the natural material with which to develop a team capable of stepping out with Canadian opposition and providing a wide-open free scoring display. Therefore the honorary coaches apparently strove to instill in their proteges’ minds the old Canadian axiom of “cover your man.”

The result was evident in the Olympians’ game with the Rovers, apparently: their puck-carriers seldom got away for a clear shot on goal without some player hanging on his neck. All in all, to a Canadian eye, Walter Brown’s team looked more formidable than the one with which the U.S. had tied Canada in the final game in 1932.

The Olympians played one more game before they sailed, against Princeton, winning 2-1 in a hard-fought battle starring goaltender Tom Moone. The team sailed from New York on January 3 aboard the SS Manhattan. Accompanying the 12 hockey players on the crossing were 15 U.S. skiers, five speed skaters, and 13 bobsledders. The light rain that was falling didn’t disturb the hundreds of well-wishers who’d come to the dock to bid the athletes farewell. It was a jolly, happy crowd. Captain A.B. Randall was in a fine mood, too, quoting with a grin what he maintained was an ancient Chinese proverb: when you start a voyage in the rain, it washes away the devil and brings good luck.