The incredible 1948 RCAF Flyers, who went from being booed off the ice to capturing Olympic gold

Jared Clinton
1948 RCAF Flyers (Courtesy Library and Archives Canada/Sandy Watson Collection)

In the early days of hockey at the Olympics, Canada was represented by the team that captured the Allan Cup. In 1947, that was a club from Quebec, the Montreal Royals. But the Royals winning the championship created a predicament for the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, which led to one of the most unlikely stories in Olympic hockey history.

The issue with the Royals representing Canada, said Jim McAuley, an Ottawa-area sports historian, was that several of the players weren’t considered amateurs. Some on the Royals were actually earning pay for their play on the Allan Cup championship team, which wasn’t allowed per Olympic rules. As such, Canada considered not sending a team. That’s when Dr. Sandy Watson stepped in.

“(Watson said) we can create a team and represent Canada at the Olympics,” McAuley explained. “That’s what their intention was. He went to his authority and they told him, ‘OK, go ahead, try and put this team together.’ They made a commitment to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association that they would go and represent Canada.”

After tryouts in Ottawa — which included some players eliminated as they had played pro before — the Canadian Olympic team made up of RCAF Flyers was selected. But before the team headed head to St. Moritz, Switzerland, where the Olympics were held in 1948, they wanted to gel more as a unit. They set up a few exhibition contests, and the result was awful. Read more

Sunday Long Read: Pronger and Lidstrom polar opposites as Hall of Famers

Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger shake hands after their 2009 playoff series. Photo by Tom Turrill/NHLI via Getty Images)

During what is now a Hall of Fame career, Nicklas Lidstrom garnered so much respect that he earned the nickname, The Perfect Human. Not The Perfect Hockey Player. Not The Perfect Defenseman. The Perfect Human. People called Chris Pronger lots of things during what is now a Hall of Fame career, too. None of them is suitable for publication on a website that might be viewed by young people. Many of those words begin with the letter ‘F’.

It was not easy to play the game the way Lidstrom did, but he made it look that way. Playing the game and preparing for it the way Lidstrom meticulously did and maintaining a ridiculously high standard on and off the ice presented its fair share of challenges. But it’s also not easy going to the opposing rink from the time you’re a kid and knowing that you’re going to be the most hated guy there. But like Lidstrom, Pronger embraced his role and status. Lidstrom wore the white hat and Pronger donned the black, and both of them managed to do it while becoming two of the most dominant defensemen of their generation.

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World Cup is about making money for the NHL and its players, not growing the game

Ken Campbell
Crosby raises his arms in triumph after his lone goal of the tournament puts Canada ahead 2-0 (Getty Images)

You still have almost a year to prepare for the World Cup of Hockey and that might seem like plenty of time, but there’s so much to do. I mean, we haven’t even started debating whether Andrew Ladd or Jaden Schwartz should be Canada’s fourth-line left winger or who would be the best fit on Connor McDavid’s line for the North American YoungStars. Securing that second mortgage to buy tickets will take a while. And if you can’t do that, the NHL and NHLPA want to make sure you’re aware you’ll be able to watch it on computers, smartphones, tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, so you still have time to pick up one of those. If you figure out what those things are.

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Happy 50th Super Mario and St. Patrick – which one would you take?

Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy  (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Separated by only a couple of hours and about 150 miles, two of the greatest players of their generation were born on this day in 1965. So, Happy 50th Birthday to Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy.

Google tells me that Andy Griffith and Marilyn Monroe were born on precisely the same day. So were Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. But the best parallel we can make for two people of bound by precisely the same birthday and excellence in the same craft are B.B. King and Charlie Byrd, who were a couple of pretty decent guitar players.

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Ekman-Larsson shooting to become best in Sweden and NHL

Ken Campbell
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Before Oliver Ekman-Larsson can even think about being the best defenseman in the NHL, he has to be the best defenseman in his own country. Heck, he’s not even the best defenseman in his own blueline pairing for Sweden. But Larsson is shooting for the title, both literally and figuratively.

When Sweden chooses its World Cup team, it will have some vexing decisions to make on its defense corps, but one of them will not be whether or not to include Ekman-Larsson. And there’s probably a good chance that whoever coaches the team will not duplicate the actions of Par Marts, who sat Ekman-Larsson out for the entire semifinal of the Olympics in Sochi and for the first two periods of the gold medal game. After starting the tournament as Erik Karlsson’s defense partner, Ekman-Larsson played fewer than 24 minutes total in Sweden’s final four games in Sochi. Ekman-Larsson started the tournament strongly with Karlsson, but was a fixture on the bench when Alexander Edler returned from his two-game suspension to start the tournament.

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Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps and Catherine Ward announce retirement from Team Canada

Jared Clinton
Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps and Catherine Ward celebrate their gold medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When Team Canada takes the ice to defend its Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang, South Korea, they’ll have to do so without the help of three women who have won a combined nine Olympic golds.

Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps and Catherine Ward each announced their retirement from competitive hcokey Thursday, which means they won’t be back when the Canadian squad attempts to win its fifth consecutive Olympic gold.

Hefford, 38, is one of the greatest women’s players to ever lace up the skates and it’s hard to imagine what Team Canada will look like without her.

Her first appearance in a major international tournament was at the 1997 World Women’s Championships. In what would be foreshadowing for the rest of her international career, Canada won gold at the tournament. Read more

Could Beijing 2022 be the game changer for NHL Olympic participation?

Ken Campbell
Andong Song  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With plans for the 2016 World Cup well underway, we know how the NHL and NHL Players’ Association are going to grow their revenues. So now we can turn our attention to something that can actually grow worldwide interest in the game, the Winter Olympics.

It’s a tournament that has kind of been lost in the shuffle here, largely because of the ambivalence the league has displayed for future participation and its preparations for the World Cup. At the World Cup kickoff in Toronto Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took a not-so-subtle jab at International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel, saying, “We hear rumors that Rene Fasel may be at some point ready to talk to us,” about Olympic participation.

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Shannon Szabados forgoes NWHL opportunity to re-sign in men’s pro league

Jared Clinton
Shannon Szabados. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Shannon Szabados has her eye on a starting job this season, but that doesn’t mean she’ll have to leave the SPHL to play in either of North America’s women’s leagues.

In an interview with the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson, Szabados said she was given the opportunity to join the NWHL — the newest professional women’s league in North America and one that will pay its players — but she has instead chosen to return to the Columbus Cottonmouths for her second full season in the men’s league.

“I definitely thought about (the NWHL),” Szabados told Matheson. “I wasn’t contacted directly by a team, but I was by the league. I got all the information about the draft and signing up and, yeah, I read it all.” Read more