When Ice Hockey Was A Summer Sport

A Look Back At The 1920 Olympic Summer Games

The 1920 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team won the silver medal in the first-ever Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament.The 1920 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team won the silver medal in the first-ever Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament.

As the 2012 Summer Olympic Games get set to kick off tonight in London it's hard to imagine a bunch of hockey players lacing up their skates and grabbing their sticks to compete in an international competition with national pride and glory on the line.

Ice hockey will not be on the docket in London, even though many fans would love some hockey to carry them through the dog days of summer.

And as curious as it would be to see how fast Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt may be on skates, we will have to wait until the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia to get our Olympic ice hockey fix.

However, 92 years ago Olympic ice hockey was born not during those cold winter months but rather in Antwerp, Belgium during the 1920 Olympic Summer Games.

At the time, the Winter Olympics were nonexistent so figure skating athletes and ice hockey players were invited to compete in Belgium instead.

When the 1916 Olympic Games were cancelled due to World War I, the first ice hockey tournament was shelved until the 1920 Games, as was the first World Championship. Previously the Ligue International de Hockey sur Glace, founded in 1908 and now known as the International Ice Hockey Federation, hosted European championships, starting in 1910, but there had yet to be a world competition featuring the United States and Canada.

Both North American teams were formally accepted into the world federation during the 1920 Games, which took place from April 23-29.

In 1920, seven countries - the United States, Canada, Belgium, France, Sweden, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia - traveled to Antwerp in search of the first-ever hockey gold medal. The other two countries in the LIHG, Germany and Austria, did not participate in the Olympics as a consequence of World War I.

The 1920s version of Olympic hockey was very different compared to the modern day version. The tournament featured teams of seven on the ice, the extra player was referred to as a "rover," facing off in games consisting of two 20-minute periods. There were no substitutions and if a player got hurt the other team was required to sit one of their own.

The tournament featured an "elimination style" format created by the Swede Bergvall, president of the Swedish Swimming Association, giving each loser another chance, but it did not truly address how to decide the silver and bronze medals.

Canada and the United States took the Olympic Games by storm dominating their European counterparts inside the Ice Palace of Antwerp.

In opening round action Tony Conroy (8 goals) and the U.S. scored a goal a minute for the first 13 minutes in a 29-0 route of Switzerland, while Canada, who was represented by the Winnipeg Falcons, breezed past Czechoslovakia 15-0.

The Falcons were invited to represent Canada at the Games after they defeated the University of Toronto for the Canadian Championship just before the start of the Olympics.

France was awarded a bye from the first round of the 1920 Summer Games, and Sweden handed the host-country Belgium an 8-0 loss.

Canada reined supreme by defeating the United States in the next round of action 2-0 earning themselves a gold medal matchup with Sweden after the Swedes knocked France out of the tournament, 4-0.

Canada picked up its third victory of the Games and the inaugural gold medal by easily defeating Sweden, 12-1.

In an odd scenario, according to David Wallechinsky in The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics (2002 Edition), the tournament rules had the United States, Sweden and Czechoslovakia facing off for the silver medal after all three had lost to Canada previously.

The United States posted back-to-back shutouts over Sweden (7-0) and the Czechs (16-0) to solidify the North American dominance against its European rivals to earn the silver medal.

Another peculiarity of the 1920s Olympic Ice Hockey tournament was that Czechoslovakia won the bronze medal by defeating Sweden, 1-0, despite not scoring a single goal until that game. The Czechs had been previously outscored 31-0 entering the bronze-medal game.

As Oscar Soderlund wrote in the Stockholms-Tidinger, Canada and the United States were just far too superior to their opponents.

"Every single player on the rink [during the Canada-USA match] was a perfect acrobat on skates, skated at tremendous speed without regard to himself or anyone else, jumped over sticks and players with ease and grace, turned sharply with perfect ease and without losing speed, and skated backwards just as easily as forwards."

"And during all this, the puck was held down in the ice and was dribbled forwards by means of short shoves of the stick."

Inside the U.S. Roster

The United States roster was managed by Cornelius Fellowes (New York, N.Y.) and Ray Schooley (Pittsburgh.) and was highlighted by the play of Conroy (14 goals), former Montreal Wanderer and Boston Bruin Jerry Geran and the man every NHL team wished they could of signed Frank "Moose Goheen."Frank "Goose" Goheen never played in the NHL despite having multiple offers.Frank "Goose" Goheen never played in the NHL despite having multiple offers.

Goheen was a bruising 6-foot-0, 200-pound defenseman who had the athletic prowess to skate up and down the ice with ease. The White Bear Lake, Minn. native was a talented football and baseball player who later thrived with the St. Paul athletic club's ice hockey team.

He led St. Paul to the McNaughton Trophy (now the league championship for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association) in 1917 and 1918 before serving for the U.S. Army during World War I, as well as in 1920.

Goheen never played in the NHL despite being drafted by the Boston Bruins and being offered a contract from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Instead, Goheen solidified his status in hockey lore by sticking with St. Paul, which achieved professional status in 1925, playing parts of seven seasons in the Central Hockey League and the American Hockey Association. He was later inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1952 and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973.

One unique aspect of the 1920s U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey team was that it featured the most Canadian-born players to ever wear the red, white and blue sweater. Herbert Drury, Joe McCormick, Larry McCormick and Frank Synott all helped the United States bring home the silver.

By the Numbers:

12: Number of years before a non-Canadian Olympic team scored on the United States. Poland ended the United State's shutout streak against European foes during the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y in a 2-1 loss to the Americans.

42: Number of goals scored by the United States during the 1920 Summer Olympics. It was a tournament high.

4: Number of Minnesota natives on U.S. roster: Anthony Conroy, J. Edward Fitzgerald, Goheen and Cyril Weidenborner

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