Ice hockey made its second Olympic appearance at the first Winter Olympics (yes, you read that right). A handful of traditional winter sports were competed at Summer Olympics in the early years of the Games (something we probably won’t ever see again).

Ice hockey made its Olympic debut four years prior to Chamonix at the Antwerp 1920 Summer Olympics. Although the Antwerp Olympics were held in the last half of August, the ice hockey competition was in April because that’s when the organizers could guarantee ice.

Unlike the Chamonix 1924 ice hockey tournament, the one at Antwerp was held indoors. It was a seven-team tournament, and Canada took gold (with a team that was almost entirely of Icelandic origin). The U.S. took silver, and Czechoslovakia took bronze.

Four years later, when the International Winter Sports Week in Chamonix took place, Canada was seeking its second victory, and the U.S. was looking for revenge. Who would walk home with the gold medal? Alison has the details, as well as some of the characters who made Olympic history.

Sources:

The Canadian Encyclopedia: https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canada-at-the-1924-olympic-winter-games

Olympics.com:

https://olympics.com/en/olympic-games/chamonix-1924/results/ice-hockey/ice-hockey-men

International Hockey Wiki:

https://internationalhockey.fandom.com/wiki/1924_Winter_Olympics

The Pink Puck:

https://thepinkpuck.com/2019/02/03/this-day-in-hockey-history-february-3-1924-gold-at-chamonix/

NPR:

https://www.npr.org/2022/02/07/1078270098/taffy-abel-medaled-in-the-1924-olympics-few-knew-of-his-indigenous-heritage

USA Hockey

https://teamusa.usahockey.com/page/show/2937749-1924-chamonix-olympic-winter-games

National Post

https://nationalpost.com/sports/olympics/the-stubborn-amateur-harry-watsons-journey-from-great-war-ace-to-olympic-hero-scoring-36-goals

Chamonix-Mont_blanc

https://en.chamonix.com/espace-pro-presse/1924-les-premiers-jeux-olympiques-d-hiver

For a transcript of this episode, please visit https://flamealivepod.com.

Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!

Photo: IOC

 


TRANSCRIPT

Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the audio. Do not quote from the transcript; use the audio as the record of note.

5-Chamonix 1924

Jill: Hello Olympics and Paralympics fans and welcome to Keep the Flame Alive Games history moment where we look at the past editions of the games all year long. We will be looking at Chamonix 1924, which is built as the first Winter Olympic games and is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2024. I’m your host Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely cohost, Alison Brown. Alison, hello, how are you?

Alison: Get your teeth guards. We got hockey.

Jill: Oh, good. I know you have been excited to talk hockey. It’s one of your favorite winter Olympic sports. What do you got?

Alison: So if you think the USA Canada rivalry is new, you are wrong. 1924 was the second time ice hockey had appeared in the Olympics. The first tournament was in Antwerp, hockey in the summer Olympics in 1920 gold medal game. Canada versus the U. S., Canada won. All right, there it starts. So the 1924 tournament includes eight teams, Canada and the U. S. again, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, France, Switzerland, and that hockey powerhouse, Belgium. Oh, hey. Rankings were based on a two tier round robin. So the top two teams from the first round would move on to the final round and then medals were determined based on the record of the games in the second round of play.

Technically, you didn’t have a gold medal game as such because it wasn’t a knockout round, but there was a gold medal game because, well, I’m not going to tell you yet. We’ll get back to that, why there was a gold medal game. So how do you put your teams together for this event that doesn’t really exist?

So Canada selected the Toronto Granites to represent the country in the Olympics. It was the most successful amateur team in the country. They had won the Allen Cup in 1923, which at the time was the top award for amateur hockey in Canada. The national team was managed by W. A. Hewitt, known as Billy, who became a legend.

And I know that word gets thrown around a lot, but truly he is a legend in professional hockey. There would be no professional hockey if W. A. Hewitt did not exist. Have his, his hand in all of this. He was also a journalist for the Toronto Daily Star, and he wrote a weekly column about the team. So we had a lot of, contemporary stories about what was happening.

He expressed confidence prior to the games that despite the changes that Canadian players would face, they would do quite well. So at the time in amateur hockey in Canada, they had boards. They skated indoors and they used artificial light and Chamonix, you’re going to be outdoors with whatever sunlight is there and sort of foot high edging.

And as we’ve talked about, this is the same ice that’s used for every ice sport that kind of block it off in sections. So they just have this foot high rim around the hockey rink section. So there’s no boards. So you could just go flying off to the side.

Jill: Oh, so if they were checking people at the time.

This would be, a different outcome from your check.

Alison: Right. So, Hewitt expressed that this would actually reduce checking because you couldn’t check somebody into the boards, you’d be checking them off the rink, so it was a little more obvious. So, he thought Canada would do very well because they were the most proficient at things like stick handling.

And they thought that would be what was going to decide the medals. So the American team was made up of amateur players, mostly around Massachusetts, and they were managed by William Haddock, who had also managed the 1920 American team. Um, he was born in that hockey hotbed of Wales, but had emigrated to the United States and lived in Pittsburgh in 1920.

Most of his players had come from in and around Pittsburgh, but this time around, we’ve got the Massachusetts players, kind of the start of that Massachusetts being a hotbed and a focus for amateur hockey players. We saw that a lot in 1980, where you had those two centers of the upper Midwest and Massachusetts.

Two of the players on the American team were naturalized citizens from Canada. Ooh. The team was led by Clarence Abel, known as Affy, who also carried the American flag in the opening ceremony. So we get to the tournament to nobody surprised. Canada is absolutely dominant. It outscored its opponents.

110 to three , whoa, including 22 to nothing over Sweden, 30 to nothing over Czechoslovakia, 33 to nothing over Switzerland.

Jill: I would hate to see what the score would be if they played Belgium.

Alison: The American team was not too far behind. They outscored their opponents 73 to 6. Holy cow. So we get to that second tier of medal round games.

We go into the last game. It is the US versus Canada. Both have a 2 0 record in that second round. So, because of the record, whoever wins this game. We’ll end up with the 3 0 record, thus having the best record, thus winning the medal.

Jill: And thus showing organizers that the gold medal game is really what

Alison: you want to see.

Exactly.

So we get to the gold medal game. To no one’s surprise really, Canada triumphs 6 1 over the U. S., winning Canada’s only gold medal in Chamonix. Wow. And surprisingly, American amateur hockey really suffered over the next four years. They disbanded and reorganized the governing body several times.

And by 1928, Canada was Nothing was settled. And General Douglas MacArthur, who at the time was the chair of the American Olympic Committee, refused to send a team to San Moritz. It’s the only time the US did not compete in men’s Olympic hockey. Wow. So Taffy Abel, the leader of the 1924 American team went on to a successful career in the National Hockey League.

Won the Stanley Cup with my team, the New York Rangers, in 1928. And possibly your team, the Chicago Blackhawks in 1934.

Jill: I would say that the Blackhawks would be my, my team still. I do enjoy the Bruins, but Blackhawks are the first.

Alison: After retiring, he opened Taffy’s Lodge, which became a tourist fixture in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. I have heard of this place. Oh, you have? I have, and that’s why I was like, Taffy’s Lodge is related to Olympic hockey. And it has been revealed that Abel was Canadian Chippewa. which is also called Ojibwe. So his family had hid their Native American identity to prevent Taffy and his sister Gertrude from being sent away to Indian boarding schools.

Jill: Much like Jim Thorpe had to go to?

Alison: Exactly. And because of his Native identity, Taffy Abel is the first Native American Winter Olympian.

Scoring leader for the gold medal winning Canadian team was Harold Watson, another great nickname, Moose. At only 19 years old, Watson had become an ace firefighter. fighter pilot during World War One. Wow. After the Olympics, he was offered several lucrative spots in the NHL. He turned them all down because he wanted to retain his amateur status.

He did not want to earn money from the NHL.

He had that Olympic amateur ideal and he focused on his business career, mostly insurance, but he kept his hand in hockey, mostly through coaching and always at the amateur level. He helmed the Toronto nationals to the Allen cup in 1932. Wow. So getting back to this gold medal game, Keep Taffy and Moose in your head because they’re the major players here.

So the game itself got a little chippy, as we would say in modern parlance, lots of injuries because we’ve got no helmets or padding. So Taffy and Moose, I just love saying that, Taffy and Moose particularly got beef. So before the game, Moose had bragged that he expected Canada to win. To beat the Americans by 10 or 12 goals, considering they beat people by 30 goals.

Not too much of a stretch. Taffy took umbrage at this remark, and 20 seconds into the game, he shot the puck right into Moose’s face. Whoa! Whoa! Moose was knocked out cold. Teeth flying? Possibly. There was no mention in the reports I read about missing teeth, but this is in the age before concussion protocols.

So Moose is right back into the game once he comes to. So.

Despite what Billy Hewitt had predicted before going to France, the game was more physical than anything that had been seen before in amateur hockey. The British team was there as fans, and they started chanting, Rugby. Bodies were flying, the referees. Tried in vain to contain this game. Basically, everybody walked away bloody.

Oh man. Backchecked, they slashed, they crashed into each other. Poor Moose managed to come back from his concussion. He scored at least two goals. Some reports say three,

but they won the gold medal six to one. Wow.

Jill: Wow. That must have been a game to watch.

Alison: I just love the idea of the British hockey players standing on the side screaming rugby over and over again. I’m not even entirely sure what that means, but I don’t care. I love that visual Canada, as we know, dominant in hockey.

They went on to win gold medals in 28 and 32 before finally losing an Olympic hockey tournament to those rugby chanters, Greg Britain. In 1936.

Jill: Wow, incredible. At least, you know, hockey always delivers.

Alison: I will say that. I was surprised that the U. S. Canada rivalry is more than 100 years old.

Jill: Incredible. Uh, let’s give a shout out to our sources.

Alison: So, we’ve got the Canadian Encyclopedia, olympics. com, the International Hockey Wiki, the Pink Puck, NPR, USA Hockey, the National Post, and the official site of Chamonix Mont Blanc.

Jill: Excellent. So, check out our expanded show notes at flamealivepod. com for more info. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep the flame alive.