The snow, if you hadn’t heard, is piling up in Davos in Switzerland this week atop the World Economic Forum, where, as The New York Times has it this morning, “financial titans mingle with heads of state in an annual saturnalia of capitalism.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a keynote speaker yesterday; the President of the United States blows in on Thursday. Amid the heavy weather and the ongoing crisis of the liberal order, can we cast back to this same week in 1932 for a look in on Hockey Club Davos? We can. That’s them here, then, against unknown opposition. The World Economic Forum got going in 1971; HC Davos dates back to 1918. Today, the team has 31 Swiss National League championships to its name, along with 15 Spengler Cups. The annual invitational Spengler is, of course, a Davos institution, going back to 1923. These days it’s played next door to the old Eisstadion Davos pictured here, under magnificent cover at the Vaillant Arena. HC Davos has been at home therein since 1979. This season, they’re standing in fifth place in the 12-team Swiss table, 19 points back of the defending champions from SC Bern. Davos plays next on Saturday, when they’re away to Lausanne HC. The outdoor rink is still there where it was in downtown Davos, with all the snow and the global elites, though minus (too bad) the wooden stand shown above.
The 1923 Banff Winter Carnival featured — well, where to start? The program for the Alberta mountain festival in February and March included a 100-mile dog-sled race with a purse of $1,000 for the leading musher, along with snowshoeing, trap-shooting, curling, ski-jumping and “ski-running,” tobogganing, and displays of “fancy and art skating.” Also in the cards: a buffalo barbecue and “swimming in the hot sulfur springs of the government baths.”
The buffalo barbecue was competitive, it turns out, with 77-year-old Colonel James Walker, famous Calgary rancher, soldier, and veteran of the North-West Mounted Police, meat-eating his way to victory ahead of 1500-odd participants. Fifteen teams started the dog-sled Grand Prix, though only four finished, in a blizzard. First across the line in a time of 13 hours and 16 minutes: Shorty Russick and his seven “wolfhounds” from The Pas, Manitoba.
And (of course) there was hockey.
The women’s tournament brought together four teams to compete for the Alpine Cup, the winner of which (said Carnival organizers) would be declared women’s world champions. The holders were on hand, the Vancouver Amazons, along with the Edmonton Monarchs and the Calgary Regents. It was the Fernie Swastikas who triumphed — that’s them here, above, in the dark and (and not yet Nazified) swastika’d sweaters. The team went undefeated that entire winter and were, in Banff, the best of the bunch, by all reports, though the tournament there does seem to have ended with a bit of a whimper.
After beating Vancouver, Fernie played Calgary twice. The first encounter ended in a tie, 0-0. The second game was 1-1 after three periods and remained that way through two ten-minute overtimes. In a third overtime, both teams scored, leaving it at 2-2.
This was on a Saturday night, and organizers declared that the deciding game would go on Monday morning. Over the weekend, after two Calgary players went home, the rest of the Regents declared that they had to leave, too. Despite a flurry of negotiations, Fernie, as the only team to take the Monday ice, was presented with the Alpine Cup.
It didn’t end there. Later the same day, the Swastikas agreed to play an exhibition game in Calgary against the Regents to raise money for the home team’s coffers. That was another 0-0.
None of this dampened the pride with which Fernie welcomed its champions. Thursday morning, when the Swastikas rolled into town on Train 67 from Alberta, much of the town was out to greet them. The mayor had asked all business to close up in honour of the victors, and everybody flocked to the station. A correspondent from The Lethbridge Herald saw it all:
The train was met by a crowd numbering up in the thousands and when the girls stepped from the train they were given three hearty cheers to which the girls replied with their club yell.
A parade wound through town, headed by the RCMP on horseback and the Fernie Pipe Band, “who kept things lively.” The Swastikas were conveyed in a sleigh decorated with their team colours, red and white. They were followed by floats crowded with schoolchildren; Mayor Henderson rode with the Swastika’s mascot, “an effigy dressed in hockey togs, red sweater and Swastika on the end of a hockey stick.”
(Image: National Parks Branch / Library and Archives Canada / PA-058059)
As far as hockey went, Canada’s 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Germany, were a fresh-air flop. For the first time in five tournaments, Canada lost a game. Unfairly or not — guess who claimed the former — that was enough to give Great Britain the gold, while Canada had to settle for silvery second.
Most of the hockey at those eventful Nazi Games took to the ice at the main rink in Garmisch, 27 games. A further ten played out on the nearby ice of Lake Riessersee, seen above in pre-Olympic days. Canada made its Bavarian debut there on February 6.
“The puckmen wearing the Maple Leaf emblem were brimful of confidence,” the Canadian Press advised the nation the day before Canada’s opening encounter with Poland. Coach Al Pudas described his team as “strong and smart.”
On the day, the Poles had trouble getting to the lake on time. Their bus was slowed or got stuck on slippery roads, and so the crowd of 300 watched the Canadians take an extended warm-up. Once the game got underway, there were goals (mainly Canadian) and there was weather (non-partisan).
“So heavy was the snowstorm,” CP reported, “the spectators saw more snow shovelling than hockey.” The players had trouble distinguishing “friend from foe.” Still, the Canadians opened with “speedy thrusts,” scoring five first-period goals. The lone Pole goal was self-inflicted, with Canadian goaltender Dinty Moore knocking the puck into his own net.
Going into the third, with the score 7-1, the Poles concentrated almost solely on keeping the Canadians at bay. “While the Polish lacked sting and polish, their defensive play was first rate,” the CP allowed; Canada added only one more goal to its rout.
By the end, the weather had pretty much imposed itself. “Despite an army of men employed to scrape and shovel” the rink, the snow piled up. “Play was halted several times,” the CP correspondent noted, “so that the officials could find the puck.”