Saturday, August 04, 2012

Remember Ice Hockey in the Summer Olympics

There was a time that the Summer Olympics was a little more than just swimming and track events. Back in 1920, the Summer Games provided some chilly excitement, as it was the first time that figure skating and ice hockey were used during the Olympics. While it may seem a little odd at first, when you realize the 1920 "Summer" Olympics started in April and ended in September-- the first week of winter events weren't too far out of place in late April. 

Ice hockey wasn't available for Olympic use until the 1914 Olympics and were only chosen for the 1920 Olympics when the manager of the ice rink that was to be used in Antwerp, Belgium for figure skating said that they would not allow the Olympics to use their facility if ice hockey was not included in the Games. Therefore, three months before the Games were to begin, ice hockey was added to the menu to compete. 

Seven nations took part in the first hockey tournament: Canada, USA, Czechslovakia, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, and France. The Canadians sent the Winnipeg Falcons, who had won the Allan Cup for senior amateur champions, the USA had sent an all-star team of the best club teams after their tournament to send a representative was abandoned, Sweden sent bandy players who had little ice hockey experience, while the other nations had their own national teams. 

In the games, the "rover" position was used, thus having seven players on the ice, including the goalie, with the ice surface being 165 feet by 58.5 feet. Also, the games were split up into halves rather than periods.

Also, the first games had a tournament system called the Bergvall System, which was created by Erik Bergvall. It was a system that had three rounds. The first round was to determine the Gold medalist, the remaining teams would then be back into a tournament for Silver, and then another tournament for those who didn't win Gold or Silver for the Bronze medal. This system really screwed over the Swedish team, who lost the Gold medal game, then the first round of the Silver medal, then losing in the final game of the Bronze medal event. They played six games while the Gold medalist Canadians played only three.  

Speaking of the first Gold medalists of the Games, Canadian had a decisive advantage of most of the teams, letting up only one goal in the Gold medal game to Sweden and scoring 29 goals in three games. The advantage was good because the Falcons had played together for the entire winter and coming off a big championship were hitting their stride perfectly. The Silver went to the USA, who only lost to Canada, giving up two goals and scoring 45 in three games. 

And while the idea now of hockey in the Summer Olympics is a bit off, it'd be fantastic for hockey fans who crave some game play in the summer and it wouldn't cause a stoppage during the middle of the year for those Olympic years. However, with the places the Summer Games are going, the ability to build a hockey arena would be rough at best, thus making it back to the Winter venues and where they will stay-- which is apropos to do, sure, but causes a lot of problems with it as well. 

But those first games were the start of something big. Hockey would move to the Winter Olympics for the 1924 Olympics and beyond, but it will always be a solid footnote for the first hockey medals were given out in the Summer Olympics. 

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