frontrunner

The scroll commemorating Art Ross’ induction in 1949 into the Hockey Hall of Fame got it about right, deeming him a “super hockey star, brilliant executive, and inventive genius.” Born in Naughton, Ontario, on a Tuesday of today’s date in 1885, Ross was a pre-eminent defender on his own skates before he took up as an NHL referee and then as coach of the long-lost Hamilton Tigers. He was the original coach and manager of the Boston Bruins, of course, and in his time in charge there oversaw three Stanley Cup championships to add to the pair he’d won as a player.

That’s Ross in the black hat here, in February of 1937, coaching his Bruins from the bench at Chicago Stadium. Milt Schmidt is beside him, and Woody Dumart one along from him, with Dit Clapper (#5) in the background. Leaving the frame (#10) is winger Fred Cook. The Bruins beat the Black Hawks on this night, 2-1, getting goals from Clapper and Charlie Sands. Paul Thompson scored for Chicago.

 

(Image: ©Richard Merrill, Boston Public Library)

uncle miltie

Milt Trip: It was in 2017 that former Bruins captain and Hall-of-Famer Milt Schmidt died on a Wednesday of today’s date at the age of 98. For Boston, he was first a centreman first, smooth-skating and hard-nosed, who piled up the points playing alongside Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer on the Bruins’ famous Kraut Line. He won two Stanley Cups as a player and shared in two more as GM of the team. His tenure as a manager might best remembered for the 1967 trade that brought Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, and Fred Stanfield to Boston from Chicago in exchange for Jack Norris, Pit Martin, and Gilles Marotte. He coached Boston, too, in parts of 11 seasons, and later took on the same role with the Washington Capitals. Here, above, we find Schmidt in January of 1961, when he was 42. Despite the sunny demeanor, his Bruins were mired in last place in the six-team NHL. Phil Watson would succeed him as Boston coach the following season, but when that didn’t really work out, Schmidt returned to the Boston bench midway through the schedule. (Image: Louis Jaques, Library and Archives Canada)

bryan trottier: just wanted to be one of those guys that can be relied on all the time

At the age of seven, Bryan Trottier told his mother he wanted to be a teacher when he grew up.

A year later, Jean Béliveau changed his mind. Trottier can’t forget the moment that fixed his future: it was 1965, April, when he watched the Canadiens’ captain take hold of the Stanley Cup. “He didn’t pump it up over his head the way players do now,” Trottier recalls. “Instead, he kind of grabbed it and hugged it.” There and then, Trottier told his dad: someday I want to hold the Cup just like that.

Better get practicing, his dad told him.

So Trottier, who’s now 66, did that. The son of a father of Cree-Métis descent and a mother whose roots were Irish, Trottier would launch himself out of Val Marie, Saskatchewan, into an 18-season NHL playing career that would see him get hold of the Stanley Cup plenty as one of the best centremen in league history. Before he finished, he’d win four championships with the storied 1980s New York Islanders and another pair alongside Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Trottier was in on another Cup, too, as an assistant coach with the 2001 Colorado Avalanche. His individual achievements were recognized in his time with a bevy of major trophies, including a Calder Trophy, a Hart, an Art Ross, and a Conn Smythe. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.

Trottier reviewed his eventful career in a new autobiography, All Roads Home: A Life On and Off the Ice (McClelland & Stewart), which he wrote with an assist from Stephen Brunt, and published this past fall. In October, I reached Trottier via Zoom in Garden City, New York. A version of this exchange first appeared at sihrhockey.org, the website of the Society for International Hockey Research.

What brought you around to writing an autobiography now?

I’ve been asked to write a book for a long, long time, probably 40-some years. But when I was playing and coaching, I just didn’t want to give any secrets away, or strategies. I’m a little more of an open book now, like when I do speaking and going into Native communities and talking to the kids. And they enjoy the stories, and those are the stories I love to tell. I really don’t dwell on negatives all that much, I really kind of look toward the positives. And there have been a heck of a lot more positive than negatives. I think when people are looking at headlines — negative headlines always seem to make stories a lot more interesting. But I’m not like that. I try to move on as fast as I can, and start making good things happen for me and my family. So that’s really what I’m talking about.

All Roads Home is a very positive book, all in all. But you’re also very frank about the challenges you’ve faced, including the deaths of your parents, and being diagnosed with depression. Those can’t have been easy subjects to get down on the page.

No, well, because I’m kind of an open book, I really don’t have a problem talking about a lot of stuff. The things I focus on are obviously the more … fun stuff. I bring the other stuff up to let people know that this is part of me, I’m human, there’s nothing that horrible about it. The really cool thing is that, out of that, you get some introspection, you get an opportunity to feel loved and supported, especially by family and friends, and the hockey world in general. And the stigma about some of that stuff is … you always say to yourself, oh my god, it shows weakness, or whatever. It doesn’t. It just shows that you’re human. And people rally. I rally for my friends when they have troubles or hardships. 

This COVID thing really left a lot of people like disconnected. It was really rough on a lot of different folks. And those moments of darkness, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s just human. A little bit of struggle: don’t worry about it, you know, just reach out. And you reach out, you’ll be surprised how people rally for you. Mental wellness and mental health is kind of a hot topic right now, thank god. So, yeah, whatever I can do through just stating something in a little book like this, if it helps a few people, great.

You worked with the writer Stephen Brunt on this project, one of the best in the hockey-book business. What was that like?

Stephen was fantastic at jogging my memory and reminiscing and checking up on me every once in a while, my memory, when I stumbled. But what I found was that the chronological order that he provided, and the structure that he provided, was fantastic. We did it all by phone. And the manuscript was thick, then we had to review it and edit it and condense it, throwing some stuff out, while still making it sound like my voice. So that was a little process.

And Joe Lee was a great editor, and you need that, I needed that, because I was a rookie writer. It was really kind of fun how it formed. And my daughter, who’s a journalism major, she was of great help. And then my other daughter was my sounding board. So I had a good team, it’s kind of like hockey, you know, we all rely on each other. Looking back, I call it my labour of joy.

The book starts, as you did, in Saskatchewan. Talk about a hockey hotbed: Max and Doug Bentley, Gordie Howe, Glenn Hall, Elmer Lach, and you are just of the players who’ve skated out of the province and on into the Hall of Fame. What’s that all about? 

[Laughs] Go figure how that happened. But yeah, I’m so proud of Saskatchewan. When I found out Gordie Howe was from Saskatchewan, that really gave me a boost. When you’re little province producing really great hockey players, it gives us all a sense of pride, about where we come from, our roots, our communities. I think every little town in Saskatchewan is like my little town. We’ve got grain elevators, a hotel, we’ve got a beer parlor, a couple of restaurants. We definitely have a skating rink and curling rink, right? I think a lot of little towns in Canada can relate to this little town of Val Marie, because it really is a vibrant little community.

He had the audacity to be from Quebec, but on and off the ice, Jean Béliveau was such an icon, for his grace and style as much as his supreme skill. What did he mean to you?

He was the captain, he was the leader. He played with confidence and, like you said, he had this style and grace. He just looked so smooth out there. He was just a wonderful reflection of the game. Everything that I thought a hockey player should be, Jean Béliveau was. And Gordie Howe, too, Stan Mikita. These guys were my early idols. George Armstrong, Dave Keon. I’d go practice, I’d try to be them. But Béliveau was above them all. And my first memory of the Stanley Cup was Jean Béliveau grabbing it.

You talk in the book about the Indigenous players you looked up to, growing up. How did they inspire you? Did they flash a different kind of light?

Well, they were just larger than life. Freddy Sasakamoose … I never saw him play, I just heard so many stories about him from my dad, who watched him play in Moose Jaw. He was the fastest player he’d ever seen skate.

When I saw players like Freddy Sasakamoose and George Armstrong and Jimmy Neilson, I said, maybe I can make it, too, maybe there’s a chance. Because those are the kind of guys who inspire you, give hope. So, absolutely, we revered these guys. They were pioneers.

There’s a lot in the book highlighting the skills of teammates of yours, Mike Bossy and Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Mario Lemieux. Can you give me a bit of a scouting report on yourself? What did you bring to the ice as a player?  

I didn’t have a lot of dynamic in my game. I wasn’t an end-to-end rusher like Gilbert Perreault. My hair wasn’t flying like Guy Lafleur’s. I didn’t have that hoppy step like Pat Lafontaine. Or the quick hands of Patrick Kane or Stan Mikita. I was kind of a give-and-go guy, I just kind of found the open man. And I made myself available to my teammates for an open pass. Tried to bear down on my passes and gobble up any kind of pass that was thrown at me.

I think when you work hard, you have the respect of your teammates. I wanted to be the hardest worker on the team, no one’s going to outwork me. It’s a 60-minute game, everything is going to be a battle, both ends of the ice, I would come out of a game just exhausted.  

And I really prided myself on my passing, on my accuracy, and I really prided myself on making sure I hit the net — whether puck went in was kind of the goalies fault. And I prided myself on making the game as easy as possible for my teammates, at the same time. If they threw a hand grenade at me, I gobbled it up, and we all tapped each other shinpads afterwards and said, hey, thanks for bearing down. That’s what teams do, and what teammates do, and I just wanted to be one of those, one of those guys that can be relied on all the time.

You mention that you scored a lot of your NHL goals by hitting “the Trottier hole.”

Yep. Between the [goalie’s] arm and the body. There’s always a little hole there and I found that more often than I did when I was shooting right at the goal. We always said, hit the net and the puck will find a hole. Mike Bossy was uncanny at finding the five-hole. He said, I just shoot it at his pads and I know there’s always going to be a hole around there. So I did the same thing: I just fired it at the net. If the goalie makes a save, there’s going to be a rebound. If I fire it wide of the net, I’m backchecking. It’s going around the boards and I’m going to be chasing the puck.

But Mike had a powerful shot. And Clark Gillies, he had a bomb. When I shot, I’m sure the goalies were waiting for that slow-motion curveball. They often got the knuckleball instead.

The last thing I wanted to ask you about is finding the fun in hockey. You talk about almost quitting as a teenager. With all the pressures for players at every level, I wonder about your time as a coach and whether that — bringing the fun — was one of the things you tried to keep at the forefront?

Coaching was fun for me on assistant-coaching side because you’re dealing with the players every day, working on skill, working on development, working on their game. As a head coach,  you’re working with the media, you’re talking to the general manager, you’re doing a whole bunch of other things, other than just working with the players. But you know, the fun of coaching for me it was really that that one-on-one aspect. There’s so many so much enjoyment that I got from coaching. And I hope the players felt that. When the coach is having fun, they’re probably having fun.

Signal Close Action: Bryan Trottier buzzes Ken Dryden’s net at the Montreal Forum on the Sunday night of December 10, 1978, while Canadiens defenceman Guy Lapointe attends to Mike Bossy. Montreal prevailed 4-3 on this occasion; Trottier scored a third-period goal and assisted on one of Bossy’s in the second.  (Image: Armand Trottier, Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

 

This interview has been condensed and edited.

 

rallying the room

This was the scene in the Montreal dressing room at the Forum 83 years ago today when, on Saturday, November 25, 1939, the Canadiens lost their first game of the season. The Detroit Red Wings were the visitors that night; the final score was 6-4 Wings.

The hockey world was still in mourning that fall for Babe Siebert, who’d drowned in Lake Huron in a tragic summer accident. The former Canadiens’ defenceman had been slated to take over as Canadiens coach before his death. To replace him, Canadiens turned to another former star, Pit Lepine, who’d departed the team at the end of the 1938-39 season to serve as playing coach for the IAHL New Haven Eagles.

That’s Lepine on the left here, beside defenceman Doug Young. Centre stage is Jules Dugal, Montreal’s business manager (i.e. GM), who had himself served a stint coaching the team before Siebert’s appointment. Seated at right is centreman Charlie Sands, listening intently to the rallying words of Canadiens’ co-owner and team president Ernest Savard. The photo on the wall? That’s another former Canadiens defenceman, I think, Battleship Leduc.

Sands assisted on this night on a pair of Toe Blake goals to aid in Montreal’s losing effort, with Lou Trudel and Ray Getliffe adding goals for the home team. Detroit got their goals from Jimmy Orlando, Jack Keating, Don Deacon, Ebbie Goodfellow, Mud Bruneteau, and Syd Howe. Claude Bourque was Montreal’s goaltender; Tiny Thompson was in the Red Wing net.

Montreal’s season didn’t get any better after this: they ended up dead last in the seven-team NHL by year’s end, the only team to miss out of the playoffs.

(Image: Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

full steam ahead

A birthday today for Clem Loughlin, born on a Tuesday of this date 130 years ago in Carroll, Manitoba. Seen here on the right in December of 1934, he was 42, in his debut season as coach of the Chicago Black Hawks, who would go on to finish the year in second place in the nine-team NHL’s American Division. The Black Hawks were the defending Stanley Cup champions that year, but they fell in the first round of the ’35 playoffs to the Montreal Maroons, the eventual winners. Loughlin would coach the Hawks through three seasons in all before Chicago’s fickle owner Major Frederic McLaughlin replaced him in 1937 with a referee and baseball umpire, Bill Stewart.

That’s 34-year-old Taffy Abel percolating in the steambath, veteran defenceman, who spent the fall of ’34 withholding his services in a contract dispute over a $500 raise Major McLaughlin didn’t want to grant him. Abel blinked in December, returning to Chicago from his home in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to stretch and steam himself into playing shape. It didn’t work out, but by January of ’35, Abel had come to an agreement with Conn Smythe of the Toronto Maple Leafs for a mid-season tryout. Abel soon changed his mind, though, deciding to hang up his skates for good and return home to Michigan. He and Loughlin would both get into the hotel business, incidentally, Abel with Taffy’s Lodge in Sault Ste. Marie and Loughlin with the Viking Hotel, in Alberta’s Sutter country.

 

(Image: SDN-076819, Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum)

long live the king

Bench Boss: King Clancy was a Hall-of-Fame NHL defenceman before he took up a whistle as an NHL referee. He’s pictured here in 1953, the year he was hired to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs. He served three middling seasons behind the Toronto bench before he was succeeded by Howie Meeker, whereupon he took a job as assistant GM for the Leafs. Clancy died on a Saturday of this date in 1986, at the age of 84. Meeker, it so happens, was 97 when he died on November 8, 2020, a Sunday.

toe aglow

Their Cup Runneth Over (and Over Again): Montreal’s mighteous Canadiens celebrate another Stanley Cup championship in May of 1965. Gathered to the left are Gump Worsley, Noel Picard, Jimmy Roberts, a battered Henri Richard, a tooth-lacking Bobby Rousseau, and captain Jean Béliveau. Grasping the Cup from the right are Jean-Guy Talbot (#17) and Yvan Cournoyer (#12). Above it all is coach Toe Blake, who died on a Wednesday of today’s date in 1995 at the age of 82. Blake won 11 Cups in his career, three as a player with Montreal Maroons and Canadiens, the other eight as a coach. (Image: Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

johnny gottselig: the deftest puck-nursing virtuoso in the league 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦

Johnny Gottselig was only ever, and very much, a Chicago Black Hawk: a useful left winger in his skating days, which lasted 16 NHL seasons, captain when they won an unlikely Stanley Cup championship in 1938, he later coached the team and (later still) served as its long-time director of public relations. He was born in 1905 in what today is very much Ukraine, in the village of Klosterdorf, on the Dnieper River, in Kherson Oblast. He was three months old when he emigrated to Canada with his parents, landing as homesteaders in Holdfast, Saskatchewan. Gottselig grew up Regina, which is where he learned his hockey.

He picked up a stick early on, but as the story’s told, he only started on skates when he was 16. Seven years later, he made his NHL debut with the Black Hawks. He was a key figure when Chicago won its first Stanley Cup championship in 1934. That year, Chicago’s Scottish-born goaltender Charlie Gardiner became the NHL’s first European-born captain to win the Cup; Gottselig was the second, in 1938. Gottselig was also the league’s second European-born head coach, after the Black Hawks’ Emil Iverson, who started in Denmark.

As a Black Hawk, Gottselig scored some goals, leading the team five times in scoring. A noted stickhandler, he was a renowned killer of penalties. “The best solution to a Hawk penalty, Chicago Tribune sportswriter Ted Damata wrote in 1945, “was to send John onto the ice. He became the deftest puck-nursing virtuoso in the league, tantalizing full-strength teams with his nimble touch in mid-ice.” Damata would remember him as the only player he’d ever seen who’d controlled the puck for the entire two minutes of a penalty.

A noted baseball player, Gottselig was also a manager in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, steering the Racine Bells, the Peoria Redwings, and the Kenosha Comets in the 1940s. He died in Chicago in 1986 at the age of 80.

Hawktalker: In his time as Chicago’s PR director, Gottselig lent his voice to game broadcasts in the late ’40s and into the ’50s.

emile francis, 1926—2022

Top Cat: Sorry to hear tonight of the death of Emile Francis, a.k.a. the Cat, at the age of 95. Born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in 1926, his NHL goaltending career had him stopping pucks for six seasons with the Chicago Black Hawks and New York Rangers. Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, Francis went on to coach the Rangers, steering them to the Stanley Cup finals in 1972, where they lost to the Boston Bruins. He coached the St. Louis Blues, too, and served as GM, too, of the Rangers, Blues, and the Hartford Whalers.

stretcher case

Built to endure, Dit Clapper was the first NHLer to play 20 seasons, and he was every bit a Boston Bruin for all of them. Born in Newmarket, Ontario, on a Saturday of this date in 1907, he distinguished himself early on a right winger, joining Cooney Weiland and Dutch Gainor on the Dynamite Line before switching back to work on defence in later years. More firsts: Clapper was the original NHLer to be selected an All-Star at both forward and defence, and when he was elevated in 1947 to the Hockey Hall, he was the first for whom the Hall waived its standard waiting period. He was a Bruin captain and served as both a playing assistant coach and coach for Boston in the 1940s. He was in on three Bruin Stanley Cups as a player, in 1929, 1939, and 1941. The team retired his number 5 in 1947.

The photos here date to later on in 1941, when Clapper was 34. That’s (a bandaged) Bruin teammate with him, 29-year-old Bill Cowley, on the right in both cases. The woman, whose name has gone missing over the years, was part of a promotional campaign that swept into Boston that November and enlisted these Bruins stars to the cause of raising funds for medical supplies to be sent to the United Kingdom to aid in the war effort against Germany and its allies. In another month, of course, the United States would be joining the fight.

 

(Images: © Richard Merrill, CC BY-NC-ND)

art class

A birthday today for Art Ross, the man who defined and built and (for 30 years) guided the Boston Bruins, who was born in Naughton, Ontario, near Sudbury, on a Tuesday of this date in 1885. That’s him up to the left of this undated image, putting his players through their paces at the Boston Arena on St. Botolph Street. The message on the boards behind him: The Management Will Not Be Responsible For Accidents On The Ice. I’d venture that this is the either the 1926-27 season or the following one. The goaltender at ease by Ross might be Doc Stewart. Eddie Shore is easy to pick out among the stoppers-and-starters, facing the tall, capped figure of #3, Lionel Hitchman. #8 might be Archie Briden (or Dutch Gainor?) and folded-over #9 (maybe) Harry Oliver. #15 could be Hago Harrington. Bottom left, with stick raised, that looks like Dit Clapper, I think, no?

Below, Ross takes a call in 1954, the year he retired. Beyond his Bruinsing, of course, Ross was a scintillating player in his own right, a coach of the NHL’s long-lost Hamilton Tigers, an NHL referee, and a tireless thinker on and innovator of hockey equipment, rules, and strategies. Art Ross died in 1964 at the age of 79.

winterspiele 1936: the revenge of jimmy foster

True Brits: Back row, from left: Coach Percy Nicklin, Bob Wyman, Archie Stinchcombe, Carl Erhardt (captain), Jack Kilpatrick, Gordon Dailley, Gerry Davey, Chirp Brenchley, Johnny Coward. Front, from left: Jimmy Borland, Art Child, Jimmy Foster, Alex Archer.

So instead of referring to this game as the triumph of England it could be labelled “The Revenge of Jimmy Foster.” The stirring episodes at Garmisch yesterday could be woven into a movie scenario which would be sure of four-star rating in at least one section of the country.

If he never stops another puck in the Olympics, he has ensured his place in the hockey hall of fame so far as international honours are concerned — while he has probably ensured it forever in the Maritimes.

• Baz O’Meara, writing in the Montreal Daily Star on Wednesday, February 12, 1936, after goaltender Jimmy Foster and his teammates on Great Britain’s team handed Canada its first-ever loss at the Olympic Games, going to claim Britain’s first (and only) gold medal.

Columnist Baz O’Meara was mostly on the money. If Jimmy Foster’s stardom didn’t quite end up soaring into eternity, not even in Eastern Canada, he did find his way into a hall of hockey fame: the British one, into which Foster was inducted in 1950. This much, too, may be safe to say: Foster, who died at the age of 63 on a Saturday of this date in 1969, never had a better night in his long and distinguished puckstopping career than he did disappointing Canada in the winter of ’36.

That was indeed the year that Canada’s four-tournament, 16-year reign as Olympic champions came to a shocking (and, for Canadians, controversial) end. Foster was a leading character in that — even before Britain took on its hockey-mad colony at the Garmisch-Partenkirchen games.

Born in Glasgow, in Scotland, in 1905, Foster emigrated to Canada when he was six and his family relocated to Winnipeg. That’s where he took up hockey goaltending, and refined his craft. He resume from those early years includes stints with the Winnipeg Argonauts, the University of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Winnipegs, and the Elmwood Millionaires. When he wasn’t on the ice, he was raising a family of three with his wife while working in PR for a distributor of Orange Crush. That’s according to Rob Jovanovic, author of an exhaustive history of Britain’s 1936 hockey gold, Pride & Glory: The Forgotten Story of Great Britain’s Greatest Olympic Team (2011).

Foster broke a leg at some point and was told he’d never play hockey again. Wrong: in the early 1930s, the work he put in playing with the senior Moncton Hawks earned him a reputation as one of the best goaltenders not in the NHL. Jovanovic:

In four years with the Hawks, he was reckoned to have saved over 6,000 shots, missed only one of 220 games, and won two Allan Cups. During one spell he went 417 minutes without conceding a goal, almost seven full games.

There was a brief buzz to the effect that Foster might find his way to the Chicago Black Hawks, where the death of another Scottish-born, Winnipeg-raised goaltender, Charlie Gardiner, had left an absence that needed filling. But nothing came of that.

In 1935, at the advanced (hockey) age of 29, it looked like Foster would finally get his chance in the NHL: that February, the two amateur prospects Tommy Gorman was most interested in signing for his Montreal Maroons were reported to be Foster and a promising winger by the name of Toe Blake. Blake signed and Foster agreed to terms, according to Montreal’s Gazette. For the latter, it wasn’t to be: Foster denied that he’d committed to anything. By fall, word was that he’d signed to play for the Richmond Hawks of the newly formed English National League, where his old Moncton coach, Percy Nicklin, was in charge.

Born in Midland, Ontario, Nicklin had learned his hockey in Port Arthur, now part of Thunder Bay. Named to coach Britain’s entry into the Winter Olympics that would hit the ice in February of 1936 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in the heart of Adolf Hitler’s Bavaria, Nicklin picked Foster as his starting goaltender.

For all the confidence the coach had in Foster, he was worried about the defence in front of him. “Nicklin fears that his team will be comparatively easy to score against,” a Canadian Press dispatch from England confided that January.

In the event, off-ice politics threatened to spoil the British effort in Germany as much as any hockey opposition. Most of the players on the British team had honed their hockey on Canadian ice; winger Gerry Davey was born in Port Arthur. Before the Games opened on February 6, Canada’s hockey delegation complained that two players, Foster and winger Alex Archer, had failed to seek releases from the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association before migrating from Canadian club teams to British.

Hockey’s governing body sided with Canada, and the night before pucks were set to drop, the Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace (as the IIHF was then known) ruled that Foster and Archer were ineligible to play for Britain. Irked, the British talked about withdrawing from the tournament. In the end, Canada withdrew its protest (if only for the duration of the Olympics), and the British played on with Foster and Archer in the line-up.

I’ve written elsewhere about the team representing Canada in ’36 (they were from Port Arthur, too). As Canadians, they were the clear favourites going into the Games, with the United States and hosts Germany seen as their strongest challengers.

Nicklin didn’t mind being counted out. Rob Jovanovic writes that he was focussed on preparing his team for the job ahead, insisting that his charges “were all in bed by 10 p.m., made no night-time telephone calls, smoked no more than two cigarettes a day, and didn’t drink any alcohol at all.”

The British campaign started with a pair of victories — and Jimmy Foster shutouts —over Sweden (1-0) and Japan (3-0). It was in the second round that the upset of the tournament — and Olympic hockey history — occurred, with Britain’s modest-smoking teetotalling squad pulling out a 2-1 victory over the favoured Canadians at the Garmisch Eis-Stadion. Gerry Davey was one of the British heroes that day, scoring Britain’s opening goal, and so too was Foster.

“His goaltending was superb, “Phil Drackett writes in account of British Olympic brio, Vendetta On Ice (1992), “as he outguessed the Canadian sharpshooters and coolly turned away bullet-like drives, the rhythmic motion of his jaws as he chewed gum being the only sign of emotion.”

A bad outcome for Canada only got worse: the way the tournament schedule was organized, the defending champions found that though both they and the British advanced to the final stage, the results of the earlier round carried over, and the two would not meet again.

That meant that while the Canadians went 4-0 after their historic loss — running up routs of Czechoslovakia (7-0) Hungary (15-0) along the way — the British were able to claim gold with the 2-0-2 record that they put together after beating Canada.

The winners’ glee was great. Britain’s “Ice Hockey Miracle,” London’s Daily Express called the team’s gold-medal performance. Canadians, meanwhile, groused and entertained excuses: nobody explained the tournament format beforehand, and anyway, it was ridiculous, and anyway, since all the Brits were more or less Canadians anyway, wasn’t this actually a triumph for Canadian hockey after all?

“England won because she was better coached,” the controversial Alex Archer told a reporter in Winnipeg that May, “and you can give all the credit in the world to our coach, Percy Nicklin. England played typical Nicklin hockey, the sort of hockey which he taught the double Allan Cup winners, Moncton Hawks. We went out to get a goal and when we got it we played a tight defensive game.”

Jimmy Foster stayed on in England, making a move (with Nicklin) to the Harringay Greyhounds, and helping Great Britain win back-to-back European championships in 1937 and ’38.

Home Cooking: A Canadian Press report from September of 1936, seven months after Jimmy Foster and his teammates upset Canada’s Olympic hopes in Germany.

Set to sign with the Brighton Tigers in 1939, Foster sized up the European forecast of war and opted for a return to Canada. He played three years of senior hockey, turning out for the Quebec Aces and, in Nova Scotia, the Glace Bay Miners and North Sydney Victorias before he retired in 1942.

A couple of last notes, to take us back to where this began: in all my reading about Jimmy Foster, I’ve never seen evidence that vengeance played a part in his perfromance in 1936.  As per Baz O’Meara’s reverie, I can report that the stirring episodes at Garmisch were indeed woven into a movie scenario in England in the wake of Britain’s glorious Winter Olympics.

Producer and director Monty Banks was the force behind Olympic Honeymoon, which was shot in the months following the tournament though never, as far as I know, released. Jimmy Foster didn’t participate, but three of his Olympic teammates featured, including Gerry Davey and back-up goaltender Art Child.

Jake Milford was in it, too: a winger for the Wembley Canadians at the time, he went on to serve as GM of both the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1984.

Milford’s Wembley coach wangled a part, too: fellow Hall-of-Famer Clint Benedict played a stylish referee in the movie, sporting plus fours and a silk scarf.

Golden Glaswegian: Jimmy Foster in 1936-37, when he tended the nets for the Harringay Greyhounds of the English National League.