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.