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The Event was billed as the 21st World Amateur Ice Hockey Championships. In fact, these 10 days were a bone-rattling little cold war fought on the arena ice of four major German industrial cities.
One of the main antagonists was a fancy-Dan, springy-legged Soviet team, World Champions going into the tournament. The Soviet players wore jerseys as red as their country's flag, trooped onto the ice in military style and were led by a flat-nosed team captain named Bobrov who read Theodore Dreiser in his spare time.
Against the World Champion Russians stood the team from Canada. It was Canada's best amateur club, winner of the Allan Cup, a team that calls itself Penticton V's after Penticton, British Columbia, its home town and the V line of peaches grown there—Valiants, Veterans and Vedettes. The Penticton V's were out to undo the wrong perpetrated on Canada last year when the mother nation of ice hockey lost the world title to the Soviets. To right that wrong, the Penticton V's came well equipped.
Player-Coach Grant Warwick had played with the New York Rangers for six and a half years, later for the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. He had been the National Hockey League's rookie-of-the-year in the 1941-42 season. Along with Grant came his brothers Dick and Bill, the latter a stick-scarred veteran with a face stitched together like an eiderdown, a former wartime Ranger who went on to eight more seasons as a minor league pro.
In all, there were 17 players, most of whom had at one time earned their living playing hockey. Registering at a Berlin hotel while on a prechampionship warm-up tour, the majority stated their occupation as "hockey player." Canadian newsmen in Germany to cover their boys' progress called them fondly "the gashouse gang from Penticton."
On the tournament's opening night the V's faced a U.S. team composed of college boys and service men, amateurs in the classical sense of the word. That night, while an official of the Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace made an opening speech, the V's appalled authority-revering German spectators by shooting the puck and continuing to warm up throughout the speech. The team had warmed up well, however, and when the V's had finished their night's work at Dortmund's Westfalenhalle arena the score stood at 12-1. Six of the goals were scored by Bill Warwick. In the U.S. team's dressing room, Coach Al Yourkewicz growled: "We might as well have been playing the National Hockey League All-Stars."
SOME SOCCER ON ICE
The following night the Czechoslovak team slipped into the Penticton meat grinder, 5-3, while the Russians danced to a tight 2-1 victory over a stubborn, bullish Swedish team. While the Swedes slashed at the Soviet forward line, the Soviets skated elegantly, clicked precision passes and carefully avoided body contact. The Soviet style of play looked like soccer transposed onto ice—pass and run, pass and run.
The Penticton V's style was different. It called for plenty of body contact. The German press called the style "rough" and tagged Bill Warwick "Der wilde Bill." A West German paper tuttutted the Canadians tartly: "In Europe we have very decided ideas of fair play...."
The fact of the matter was that Penticton had brought Canadian hockey to the championships and had found, to its surprise, that where the Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace held sway quite different rules applied. Body checking was only allowed in the defenders' third of the rink and then at least two meters away from the boards. Checking against the boards was taboo. On the other hand, European referees were apt to overlook such offenses as high sticking, interference and kicking with skates. The strange rules conflicted with the V's ingrained hockey craft. The team became edgy. They refused to move into quarters assigned to them, chose instead one of D�sseldorf's poshest hotels. Some of the players didn't like German milk, so they sent to Penticton for some. It arrived promptly by air.