THE BIRTHPLACE OF HOCKEY HAS LONG PRODUCED SOME OF THE MOST skilled players in the game, but when Canada sent the nation's first hockey representatives to the Olympics, in 1920, all but goalie Wally Byron (below, in leg pads) were of Icelandic descent. The first Canadian Olympic hockey team and all its successors through the 1960 Games were not collections of all-stars but successful provincial or club teams, composed of amateurs. In Antwerp the Winnipeg Falcons (named for a symbol of Iceland) brought home the gold, followed by the Toronto Granites in '24, the University of Toronto Grads in '28, the Winnipeg Hockey Club in '32, the Royal Canadian Air Force Flyers in the first postwar Games in '48 and the Edmonton Mercurys in '52. Here is a closer look at the Canadian hockey juggernaut, which won six of the first seven Olympic gold medals awarded.
THE FIRST Olympic hockey tournament took place in April, during the lead-up to the Summer Games. The Winnipeg Falcons, representing Canada, had to raise funds for the cross-Atlantic voyage and received $500 from the Winnipeg city council and $2,000 from the Manitoba legislature. Playing two 20-minute periods, with seven men to a side, Canada beat Czechoslovakia 15-0 without committing a penalty; goalie Wally Byron never touched the puck. Next, Canada beat the U.S. 2-0 and then Sweden 12-1 in the final. Team Canada won the gold by playing, as The Globe in Toronto put it, "exceedingly fast and very clean hockey."
ENTERING the final game, against the United States, the Toronto Granites had won four matches for Canada by a combined score of 104-2, while the U.S. team had outscored its opponents 72-0. The gold medal game was at least a bit more competitive, although during Canada's 6-1 win about 80% of the action took place on the American side of the ice. Reported The Toronto Star: "The Canadians had the science, skill and team work and [were] a much superior team even more than the score indicates." Dunc Munro (shooting) was one of a handful of players who also officiated games played between other countries.
ST. MORITZ 1928
SO IMPRESSED were Olympic officials with Team Canada that they let the squad advance directly to the final round. The Toronto Star called it a "hollow triumph," as the team rolled to a third straight title, shutting out Sweden, Great Britain and Switzerland by a combined 38-0, thanks in part to goalie Joe (Stonewall) Sullivan. The University of Toronto Grads beat the Swiss 13-0 in their final game (pictured) in front of some 7,000 spectators, 3,000 of whom stood on the slopes behind the rink. According to the paper, there was "little doubt but that [the Canadians] could have made their margin of superiority more pronounced had they chosen."
LAKE PLACID 1932
FINALLY, Team Canada had to work for the gold. The tournament featured only four teams—Germany and Poland joined the U.S. and Canada—because the Great Depression limited long-distance travel. The Winnipeg Hockey Club beat the U.S. 2-1 early in the tournament (pictured) and needed only a tie to wrap up the gold medal in the rematch 10 days later. Romeo Rivers scored for Canada with less than a minute left to tie the game 2-2, and after three overtimes the game was declared a draw. The Winnipeg Free Press wrote, "The Winnipegs never played a better game of hockey than they did as the Canadians against the Yankees."
ST. MORITZ 1948