a wiry little Czechoslovakian cook, stood pinned against the barricade planks
in Prague's aging Winter Stadium. The barrier came almost to his chin. His
faded overcoat was threadbare and his beret was askew. He had been in that
position nearly three hours.
Jammed in behind
him, similar-type Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians and Rumanians stood 50 deep. Ten
thousand others were shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip on aching pins all the
way around the tinderbox wooden rink.
It was only 30
minutes before Francis Hanacek would see the puck dropped to launch the Soviet
Union against the defending champions from Canada in what everyone expected to
be the key game of amateur hockey's 25th world series, so Francis considered
himself a very fortunate fellow indeed.
"I got into
line at 3 o'clock [game time was 8] so I might have this favorable
position," he explained. "The pressure from those behind me is great,
but I still have an excellent view of the match."
enjoyed the luxury of seats—of which there were approximately 4,000—glanced
apprehensively as the fence separating standees from seatees creaked and
groaned. They were in danger of being buried by an avalanche of humanity if the
ancient wooden wall ever gave way.
This was a scene
which was repeated many times in the cities of Czechoslovakia as the
hockey-hungry populace waged one of the greatest ticket hunts of all time in
sport. Even a game between visiting sportswriters and Czechoslovakian
newspapermen drew 14,000 spectators.
scheduled by John Francis (Bunny) Ahearne of London, president of the
International Ice Hockey Federation, the games were arranged to exploit this
hockey hysteria to the last heller ([1/14] of a cent).
matches were played in three cities—Bratislava, Brno and Ostrava—with six of
the 12 nations in the major series advancing to the round-robin final in
Prague. For the qualifying game between Canada and Czechoslovakia at
Bratislava, Publicity Man Lubomir Zeman reported that he had 400,000 written
applications for the 12,500 seats available.
In store windows
and on fences throughout this ancient city of the Slovaks placards appeared:
"To our dear representatives of the Czechoslovakian ice hockey team: fight
with all your strength. We will all be with you and encourage you. (Signed)
Your Bratislava Sports Public." An announcement that every period of every
major game would be televised failed to subdue the clamor for tickets. Security
guards were placed around Press Agent Zeman's home. The telephone numbers of
all his publicity staff were changed.