air show, 1948: goldbound, via slushy ice and snowballs

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“When the decisions went against the Swiss in the vital game with Canada, a chorus of shrill whistles echoed through the Alps and a barrage of snowballs came down from the hillside.”

• Jack Sullivan reporting for Canadian Press, February 9, 1948

It wasn’t easy, but they did it: on this day 69 years ago, the RCAF Flyers won gold in St. Moritz at the V Winter Olympics Games. That’s them above, flanked by the silvery Czechs and bronze-winning Swiss. Capping off a tournament that didn’t lack for drama — it was very nearly downgraded to an exhibition event — the Canadians beat the host Swiss on the final day in what seems to have been a decidedly bad-tempered contest.

The Canadian view: the plucky Canadians overcame terrible ice and biased refereeing to win 3-0. “We played eight men —“the Swiss players and the referees — and still beat ’em,” Corporal George McFaul, RCAF trainer, crowed after the game.

Here’s Jack Sullivan again:

The ice conditions and the refereeing were so bad that at times the game threatened to develop into a farce. The officials, Eric De Marcwicz of Britain and Van Reyshoot of Belgium, were pointedly in favour of Switzerland, some of the latter’s decisions being almost unbelievable.

[Wally] Halder tried to check a Swiss player at one point but fell flat. The Swiss player also went down. Halder was thumbed off for five minutes by Van Reyshoot — “for tripping and interference.”

Later, Heinrich Boller, Swiss defenceman, cross-checked Thomas (Red) Hibbard, who fell heavily to the ice. Both players were sent to the penalty box. Near the end of the game during a scramble in front of the Canadian goal Boller punched [goaltender Murray] Dowey in the face but was given only a two-minte penalty.

During the second and third periods, the partisan Swiss crowd, taking exception to some of the referee’s decisions, hurled snowballs at the Flyers.

(Image: Library and Archives Canada, R15559-22-2-E)