There was no miracle on the ice at Lake Placid on this date in 1932, just the same old same-old: Canada won Olympic gold.
But it was close.
For the first time in four Olympic hockey tournaments spanning 12 years and 17 games, a Canadian team failed to register a win. That Saturday 90 years ago, the best Canada’s team could manage was a 2-2 tie against the host team in front of a packed house at the Olympic Arena. The Americans were leading 2-1 almost to the end, too: with just 33 seconds remaining on the clock in the third period, Canadian left winger Romeo Rivers sent a shot in from the blueline that beat U.S. goaltender Franklin Farrell.
The teams played three 10-minute periods of overtime without another goal. A U.S. win would have seen the tournament extended by another game, with the two old rivals meeting again to decide a winner. As it stood, the tie was enough to secure the championship for Canada.
Canadians on the were, predictably, exultant. Winnipeg Mayor Ralph Webb was at the game and his exuberance was soon cabled back to Manitoba. “The boys played a wonderful game,” he declared, “and the score does not represent the real game they played. All Canada should be proud as Winnipeg is of them.”
Memories of the mighty Winnipeg Falcons were widely invoked, that plucky team of Icelandic-Canadians who’d claimed gold in Antwerp in 1920. Interestingly, according to W.A. Hewitt in the Toronto Daily Star and others, that original title wasn’t entered in official Olympic records.
“The international Olympic committee a few years ago decided to erase the 1920 Winter Sports from the records,” Vern DeGeer recalled in his Windsor Star column.
“According to the International Olympic committee,” reported Hewitt, a member of Canada’s Olympic committee, “it is only the third title for Canada.”
Amid the celebratory columns that showed up over the next few days in Canadian newsprint were several gleeful accounts of American gaffes.
The game was broadcast across both the NBC rand Columbia radio networks, with Ted Husing providing play-by-play for the latter. “He came out with a flock of new terms,” columnist Johnny Buss wrote in the Winnipeg Tribune, but considering it was his first attempt at broadcasting a hockey game he did well.”
The puck was always a ball, according to Husing, and the American players were constantly flashing like “blue streaks” down the “alleys.” The penalty box was the “jury box,” and once Bill Cockburn was guilty of “heeling the ball,” whatever that may mean. Apart from these eccentricities, the report of the game more or less made sense.
Toronto’s Daily Star told the tale of the band that was on hand at the Olympic Arena. With minutes remaining in the game and the U.S. leading 2-1, the bandleader told his charges to be prepared to play the Star-Spangled Banner. The Star’s account of this is unbylined, but it’s likely that it was written by sports editor Lou Marsh, who just happened to be refereeing the final.
“He was all excited and joyed up,” the Star wrote of the bandleader. And went on:
Now the band was stationed in the alleyway around the Canuck players’ bench and they heard his excited orders. Then Rivers scored the tying goal — the winning goal, really — and sent the game into overtime. You can guess what disposition the exulting Canadian players invited the bandleader to make of his anthem when Rivers tied the game up.”
And the band DID NOT play “The Star Spangled Banner!”
Neither DID they play “The Maple Leaf” or “O Canada!”
They just folded up and departed!
“The Canadian team had shown such terrible form … that their officers were commencing to cultivate brows like old-fashioned washboards.”
“To tell the honest truth, the team Canada has to depend upon looked worse than awful.”
Oh, it all worked out in the end in February of 1932, at the Winter Olympics, for Canada, in hockey. It just wasn’t as easy as it might have been for the Winnipeg Hockey Club, the team charged with upholding Canada’s golden honour at hockey’s fourth Olympics. That the gloomy words above were written and published for a national audience to ponder by the man who refereed every one of the Canada’s games during the tournament might seem a little strange, but, well, that’s how it went in those years. Lou Marsh, the sports editor for the Toronto Daily Star whose record of racism has recently come under renewed scrutiny, was in Lake Placid in ’32 as a working reporter, albeit one with a unique perch: along with an American colleague, Donald Sands, Marsh was one of the officials who oversaw every game at of the tournament. (He was, it’s true, a seasoned veteran, having moonlit as an NHL referee for more than a decade.)
By February 7, when Marsh was furrowing his own brow, Canada had played three games. After opening the tournament against the hosts from the United States with a 2-1 overtime win on February 4, they’d (reluctantly) skated in an exhibition game, losing 2-0 to McGill.
Next, back to the fight for gold, came Germany, who insisted on succumbing by a mere 4-1. This was just getting silly. Four years earlier, Canadians had been lapping Swedes and Czechs by scores of 33-0 and 30-0.
Lake Placid had a brand-new indoor hockey rink that year, but as Marsh explained it, the organizers preferred a second, outdoor, venue at the local Stadium, where they could accommodate more spectators and sell more tickets. The Stadium rink was narrow and, for the first meeting between Canada and the U.S., its ice was soft and spongy. That worried Marsh, on Canada’s behalf. “If these games continue on these outdoor rinks, Canada is not out of the woods yet, Anything can happen.”
The Americans, the referee warned, were a real threat.
“True enough,” he wrote following the overtime win, “it was nothing like a good hockey match to look at, but those Yanks know what it is all about and they made the going tough for the Canucks.”
Wearing his newspaperman’s hat, Marsh had done his best to toughen the going for the Americans before the tournament got underway. In January, Ralph Winsor’s U.S. aggregation of college players had played an Olympic warm-up game at Boston’s Garden against the NHL Bruins. The pros prevailed by a score of 5-1, with Art Chapman netting four goals.
But (the Boston Globe judged) “the amateurs left an impression that the shield of these United States is to be worn by a group of right smart hockey players.” The U.S. team further profited from the experience by receiving gate receipts from the game to help finance their foray to Lake Placid. If no-one south of the Canadian border saw anything untoward in this, there were those to the north who did. Lou Marsh took it upon himself to cable Paul Loicq, president of the Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace (forerunner of the IIHF), to wonder whether the U.S. hadn’t broken rules governing amateurism and the Olympics.
After years as a sports columnist at Toronto’s Daily Star, Marsh had in the fall of 1931 succeeded to the role of editor when his long-time boss, W.A. Hewitt, accepted a job from Conn Smythe as attractions manager of his brand-new Maple Leaf Gardens. Hewitt, Foster’s father, had strong Olympic hockey ties himself, having accompanied the 1920 Canadian team to the very first tournament in Antwerp as a reporter and representative of the Canadian Olympic Association.
In 1932, Hewitt was serving as the COC’s manager of winter sports while still writing for the Star. Pointing out the U.S. transgression, Marsh quoted Hewitt in his COC role as saying he didn’t think Canada should lodge an official protest. Which they didn’t, in the end. While Paul Loicq confirmed that the U.S. had broken the rules, without Canada’s objection, no further action was taken.
Back on the ice in the Adirondacks, Canada recorded a restorative 9-0 drubbing of the Poles on February 8, and that must have calmed some nerves. The Germans got the message, sort of, losing 5-0 when the teams met for a second time. Next day, when it was Poland’s turn again, the Winnipegs patiently re-drubbed them 10-0.
Which was better. More Canadian, certainly. In the final (indoors at the Arena), the Winnipegs faced the United States again, on February 13. Lou Marsh noted a quirk of the American wardrobe in his Star column before the game: as seen in the image at the top, Ralph Winsor’s defencemen wore sweaters featuring a broad white band around the chest, to distinguish them and remind their teammates on the forward line of their defensive responsibilities.
“Any time a forward sees a player with this broad white band pass him going down the ice,” Marsh wrote, “he knows that the defence is temporarily weakened and that he must cover up for a return rush.”
In the game, the Americans twice had the audacity to take the lead and twice — “a little shaken by the unexpected turn of events,” as the Toronto Globe reported — Canada was forced to tie it up. That’s how the game ended, 2-2, which was just enough to give Canada the gold, on points, even as the country considered the disturbing shift in Olympic hockey that we’ve been struggling with ever since: other teams, from other countries, seemed like they wanted to win gold just as much as we did.
The first time Canada took on Germany at an Olympics was in 1932 in Lake Placid, New York. The teams played twice in that tournament, 90 years ago this month, on Saturday, February 6 and then again on the Monday, February 8. That’s action from the former here, above. “Unabashed by their 7-0 defeat at the hands of the United States last night,” a Canadian Press account went, “the Germans started the game tonight with a fine turn of speed and a great deal of courage that battered manfully at the tough Winnipegs’ defence for two periods before they got anywhere near Bill Cockburn in the Canadian goal.” The game was played outdoors, at the rink at the Olympic Stadium. Canada won by a score of 4-1, with centre Walter Monson leading the way with a pair of goals.
“The husky Teutons” was a phrase of Ralph Allen’s, deployed in the Winnipeg Tribune after the teams’ second encounter, which was played indoors at the Olympic Arena. Another reporter wrote that “what the Germans lacked in hockey skill they made up for with sheer grit.” CP’s Wallace Ward praised their “plucky persistence.”
“They were decisively outclassed, however, and their desperate thrusts lacked sadly in cooperation and general hockey craft.”
The Globe deemed the Germans “stubborn.” Rudi Ball and Gustav Jaenecke were their most dangerous players: “their speed was a revelation if their shooting was clumsy.”
The Canadians rested three of their regulars for that game, including Hack Simpson. Canada’s margin of victory was 5-0 this time out.
The hockey tournament at the 1932 Winter Olympics was an intimate affair, 90 years ago this month, with just four teams taking part. Joining the United States and Canada on the ice at Lake Placid, New York, were teams from Germany and Poland. Scouting for The Winnipeg Tribune just before the pucks plummeted in early February, Paul Warburg advised that “Poland has improved remarkably in hockey, but their likelihood of being a serious contender to either the Canadians or United States teams is small.”
And so it proved. The Poles opened their account with a pairs of losses, 2-1 to Germany and 4-1 to the hosts from the United States. They played an exhibition game next, borrowing a local American goaltender for a 6-2 loss to the Lake Placid Athletic Club.
The Winnipeg Hockey Club was wearing the maple leaf in ’32, and on February 7 the Tribune’s Ralph Allen was on hand to watch “the valiant but futile Polska outfit” show its stuff. It turned out “a nice, easy workout for the Canadians,” Allen reported, as the favourites “showed lots of speed and combination when they felt like uncovering it.”
Poland played cautiously, “adopting a packed defence whenever possible,” and for the first ten minutes the ’Pegs were duly stymied. Eventually they found their way to a 9-0 win. Allen thought they could have netted more in the third period, if they’d felt like it. Leading the way for the Canadians were Romeo Rivers, Walter Monson, and Hack Simpson, who scored a pair of goals each.
Wallace H. Ward was on hand in Lake Placid, reporting for the Canadian Press. “With no knowledge of the bodycheck,” he observed, “the Polish team was helpless when the white-sweatered Canadians were skirmishing in the defensive zone.”
The Poles dropped another game to the U.S. by a score of 5-0. They lost again to Germany, too, 4-1, in a game featuring flurries of high sticks. Somehow, Ralph Allen reported, only two players were injured, including Polish goaltender Josef Stogowski, who suffered “a bad gash under the eye from the stick of a teammate;” the game was paused for ten minutes while he was patched.
When the Poles faced Canada one last time two days after their first encounter, Winnipeg’s eventual gold medallists showed their restraint by keeping the score to 10-0. Every Canadian player but goaltender Stanley Wagner notched a goal on this outing, though they had to work for it. Ralph Allen:
Everything went along smoothly until it was nearly time to go home to supper, and someone discovered that Kenny Moore and Stoney Wise hadn’t had their turn at hitting the button. So everybody joined in and lent a helping hand to the victims of this shocking though unwitting neglect. Kenny and Stoney got their goals, and everybody was happy.
Big day at the Winter Olympics today … in 1932. February 6 was a Saturday at the III hibernal games, which took place in and around Lake Placid, New York, and saw the mushing of 12 teams over a gruelling 40.5-kilometre course for the first of two races that were organized to show of dog-sled racing as an Olympic demonstration sport. Saturday’s race was won by Emil St. Goddard and his seven dogs, from The Pas, Manitoba. Actually, they won Sunday’s race, too, to take the overall title, ahead of the famous Alaskan sledder Leonard Seppala.
Hockeywise, February 6 saw Canada’s team play its third game in three days, though only two of them actually counted in the tournament standings.
Here’s how that worked: on February 4, Canada played the U.S. at Lake Placid’s outdoor Stadium rink. With an eye to selling tickets, American organizers had slotted in a series of exhibition games throughout the Olympics, which is how Canada skated out on February 5 and lost 2-0 to the team from McGill University. McGill got both its goals from centre Nels Crutchfield, who went on to play a single season for the Montreal Canadiens before a skull fracture suffered in a car accident put an end to his hockey career in 1935. At Lake Placid, Canadian management attached no importance to the game. Next morning, February 6, Canada beat Germany 4-1.
It was the Winnipeg Hockey Club representing Canada at the 1932 Olympics, the reigning Allan Cup champions, and despite what you see above, they (a) wore regular shinpads and socks and (b) affected plain old red maple leaves on their sweaters, no exoskeleton needed.
While we’re looking, it’s hard to say what exactly might be going on with the puck in this imaginatively enhanced German photo-illustration of Canada’s February 4 meeting with the United States. (See the original photograph below.) If the teams did indeed play the game batting about the lid of a teapot, it’s not something any of the newspapers noticed at the time. What we do know is that this was the opening outing of Canada’s least-dominant Olympics up to that point, even if they did — spoiler alert — end up grabbing gold.
Going into these Games, Canadians back home wondered whether the Winnipegs were worthy representatives. Could they get the job done? The team was considered weak, writes Andrew Podnieks in Canada’s Olympic Hockey Teams (1997), not to mention lacking in lustre. I don’t know that it’s fair to say that the country suffered a national sinking feeling as the team rode east out of Manitoba on Canadian National’s Continental Limited flyer, but neither am I ruling it out.
In this first meeting with the U.S., the Winnipegs may have been thrown off by the fact that the game was played outdoors. Goalie Bill Cockburn had sun glaring in his eyes, and the team in general was (said The Globe) “as nervous as an amateur theatrical troupe on ‘the big night.’” Also, did I mention that the rink was disconcertingly small?
Canada was not only “sluggish” for the first two periods, but “wobbly.” In the second, the Americans scooped up a wild Canadian pass in front of Cockburn and Doug Everett scored.
That woke up the Winnipeggers. Time to step it up. In the third, as The Globe told the tale, Franklin Farrell, the U.S. goaler, was on his knees most of the time batting away shots with his elbows and his hands.
Canad’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremonies, left winger Hack Simpson, finally beat him. In the 10-minute (non-sudden-death) overtime, despite taking two penalties, the Canadians prevailed when Vic Lindquist drove at the net, fell, collided with Farrell and, somehow, shoved the lid of the teapot into the net.
“Twas a close squeeze,” Globe sports editor Mike Rodden exhaled next morning.
“We have a good team, a strong team, a well-knit organization with a fine sense of team play and exceptional spirit, ” the coach wrote in a column published across North America as his team launched its bid for gold this week in 1932 as the games of the III Winter Olympiad kicked off in Lake Placid, New York. This was Ralph Winsor, long-serving coaching legend of Harvard hockey, where he’d captained before taking to the collegiate bench in 1902. Like this year’s U.S. Olympic team, Winsor’s 1932 charges were college star and minor-league veterans. Yes, Canada had an immaculate record through three previous Olympics, winning championships in 1920, 1924, and 1928. Sure, the Winnipeg team wearing the maple leaf in ’32 was strong. “But,” Winsor wrote in a pre-Olympic preview that the Associated Press sent out, “past experience has shown that no hockey team is invincible.”
Olympic rules, he pointed out, might help his team overthrow the Canadians: no forward passing was allowed in mid-ice or offensive zones, which would “militate against the effectiveness of brilliant individuals” and allow “a relatively slower team” to “be able, through team play, to use the Olympic system to advantage.” A caveat: “I believe, in justice to hockey, that the faster and better team should be enabled, under the rules, to win.” Winsor was optimistic that his team could solve the Canadians. “We tackle them today,” he wrote. “We can win.”
Germany’s ship came in on this date 90 years ago, which is to say the S.S. Hamburg, which docked at New York on a Sunday in 1932 after a seven-day voyage from Cuxhaven in Germany, bearing (among other passengers) the German hockey team that was competing in the III Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y. That’s them arrayed here on arrival, with captain Eric Romer (left) shaking hands with the local German consul, Dr. Paul Schwartz (with his cane). I haven’t id’d the rest of the players, though at the far right is their star, Gustav Jaenecke, who may be the best German player of all time (give or take Leon Draisaitl). Rudi Ball is in there, too, somewhere — possibly third form the left with what looks like (but isn’t) an iPhone dangling down.
Eager to get back on the ice after their week at sea, the Germans skated on the Sunday of their arrival at the New York Coliseum in the Bronx. The next day, on that same ice, they took on the Bronx Hockey Club of the Manhattan Amateur league.
Sunday’s practice had been costly: German goaltender Walter Leinweber had his nose broken by friendly fire, and sat out Monday night’s warm-up game. A local ’tender, John Vanassee, stood in, and promptly leaked four goals, but the Germans battled back, tying the game with 40 second left in the third period. Ball, a centreman, and defenceman Alfred Heinrich were Germany’s outstanding players, according to the Yonkers Herald. No overtime was played, in deference to the visitors having so recently arrived, and the fact that they had to leave for Lake Placid the next day.
The 1932 Olympic hockey tournament was a cozy little affair, just four teams taking part, with Germany and Poland joining the hosts from the U.S. in the effort to dethrone Canada, the defending champions, who’d sent the Winnipeg Hockey Club, the 1931 Allan Cup champions, to uphold the honour and pride of the maple leaf.
Germany’s first game in Lake Placid was on Saturday, February 6, against the Canadians — but more on that later.
Canada’s botanically flawed 2022 Olympic sweaters weren’t the only ones to debut this week; USA Hockey divulged the wardrobe its players will be wearing in Beijing in February, too:
As in the north, so too in the republic to the south: USA Hockey is insisting on explaining the many meanings of its design. Like Canada’s own exegesis, it’s a brave bit of nonsense. Inspired by “American pride and ingenuity,” the look “pays homage to America’s industrial past, while representing the future of innovation.”
In a nod to America’s symbols, a subtle band of stars is set between red, white, and blue stripes that surround the chest and arms on the home and away [sic] jerseys. Drawing inspiration from American ‘muscle cars’ and traditionally bold hockey designs, Team USA’s alternate jersey bears a deep blue double stripe running around the chest and arms.
And then there’s “the internal back neck message.” No, it’s not XL … or it’s not just XL. “‘Driven by Pride’ serves as a reminder to athletes and fans,” USA Hockey alleges, “that they are, in part, driven by the pride of competing for their country.”
While we’re nodding at American symbols, I’m going to revert to a time before internal back neck messages and conclude here with the 1924 U.S. team. That’s them at the top here, on the ice at Chamonix in France, showing off a truly superlative suite of sweaters that, as far as I’m concerned, require no further explanation.
Pride was, I will add, a souvenir of the American experience in France that year. William Haddock was president of the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association at this time, and he coached the Olympic team in that second tournament. As the U.S. had done in 1920 in Antwerp, Haddock’s charges came home with silvery second.
“While I regret that I will not be able to report a championship victory,” he said in early March of ’24, “I nevertheless can say that I felt very proud of the team, which won all of its matches until it met our neighbors, the Canadians, and they only lost after a magnificent battle which was more closely contested than the score would indicate. I believe that our boys, as individuals, proved themselves every bit the equal of the Canadian players, but the Canadians had the advantage in having played together longer and therefore were superior in team play.”
The score indicated was 6-1 and while I’m not able to adjudicate on the closeness of the contest, I can report that Beattie Ramsay, who played on Canada’s defence in that game, did report at the time that the U.S. didn’t worry the Canadians so much.
Back home in late February, he unpacked an immaculate ingot of Canadian pride to tell a Saskatchewan newspaper that the Americans had tried to impede Canada “by rough work.” There had a row before the final over who should referee: both Haddock and his Canadian counterpart, W.A. Hewitt fretted that a European wouldn’t be up to the task. In the end, they’d settled on Paul Loicq, the Belgian lawyer and Continental hockey pioneer who’d played for his country at the 1920 games and had recently been elected president of the International Hockey Union, forerunner of the IIHF.
Beattie Ramsay, for one, wasn’t impressed by Loicq’s umpiring. “With an efficient referee, he declares, Canada could have won the final game by 20 goals. As it was, it was poor hockey.”
Ramsay did pick out a pair of Americans for praise, defencemen Herb Drury and Taffy Abel. Both went on to play in the NHL, Drury for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Abel as both a Ranger in New York and Black Hawk in Chicago.
In goal for the U.S. in 1924 was Alphonse “Frenchy” Lacroix, who would, a year hence, step into the breach in Montreal when the illustrious Canadiens’ career of goaltender Georges Vézina came to an abrupt end with the onset of his final illness.