1948 Olympics – St. Moritz, Switzlerand
The Fifth Olympic Winter Games were a long time coming.
World War II cancelled the Games in 1940 (originally to be held in Sapporo, Japan then St. Moritz, Switzerland) and 1944 (originally to be held in Garmisch-Partenckirchen, Germany, then Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, who narrowly outbid Montreal).
Once the war was finally over, the IOC met in September 1946 and quickly awarded the 1948 Winter Olympics to St. Moritz, Switzerland. The only other bid came from another past host, Lake Placid.
The war may have been over, but the Canadians certainly had a military feel as they pursued the gold medal. Canada was represented by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Flyers. The legendary Frank Boucher was the coach. Aside from civilians Wally Harder and captain George Mara, the team was completely comprised of servicemen: Aircraftsman 2 Murray Dowey, Flying Officer Frank Dunster, Aircraftsman 2 André Laperrière, Flight Sergeant Louis Lecompte, Aircraftsman 1 Orval Gravelle, Corporal Patrick “Patsy” Guzzo, Aircraftsman 1 Ted “Red” Hibberd, Leading Aircraftsman Ab Renaud, Flying Officer Reg Schroeter, Corporal Irving Taylor.
Here’s some YouTube footage of Canadian Andy Gilpin being honoured 60 years after winning the gold medal:
With the possible exception of goaltender Murray Dowey, none of them had any long lasting fame.
Flying Officer Hubert Brooks, who received the Military Cross after escaping a German prisoner of war camp, made the trip but did not play. But he had a memorable time in St. Moritz, nonetheless. He married long time sweetheart Birthe Grotved of Denmark. Grotved’s bridesmaid was none other than Canadian Olympic figure skating gold medalist Barbara Ann Scott.
Canada would win gold, thanks to a 7-0-1 record with 69 goals for and just 5 against.
The Controversial American Team
The Americans blatantly sent a team that included professional players, at least in the eyes of the Canadians and other nations. The IOC agreed, but the Americans would not back down. The IOC retaliated by initially relegating hockey to demonstration sport status, thus making all medals unofficial. They even publicly mused about barring hockey from all future Olympic Games.
A compromise was reached which allowed hockey to stay in the Olympics and allow the Americans to play who they wanted. They would play games that would count in the standings, but USA would be ineligible for a medal. Ultimately it did not matter, as the Americans went 5-3, and finished 4th in the standings.
Finishing second with the silver medal was the team from Czechoslovakia, an up-and-coming power in the hockey world. Jaroslav Drobny, Ladislav Trojak and Vladimir Zabrodsky powered the team to an identical record with Canada, 7-0-1. The tie game came against Canada, 0-0, with goaltender Bohumil Modry, pictured to the right, the hero of that game.
The Czechoslovians even outscored Canada in the tournament 80 to 69. Ultimately though the gold medal went to Canada courtesy of the tie breaker rules. Because Canada had allowed just 5 goals compared to CSSR’s 18, their goal average was the better of the two.
The hometown Swiss took the bronze medal, just like they did 20 years earlier, also in St. Moritz. On both of those bronze medal teams was the greatest player in Swiss hockey history – Bibi Torriani.
Sweden, Britain, Poland, Austria and Italy rounded out the competition in 1948.