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Hockey’s forgotten history

April 12, 2013
Lake Placid News

The Olympic Regional Development Authority hosted the NCAA Division III Ice Hockey Championships on March 15 and 16. Coincidentally, it was also in the month of March when the first official organized game of ice hockey was played on March 3, 1875 in Montreal's Victoria Skating Rink.

The exact story of how hockey became an exciting competitive sport to watch remains unknown, but many believe that it may have its origins from field hockey. No one is quite sure how or when games with sticks and balls began, but a stone tablet said to have been carved around 500 BC was found in Greece showing boys playing a game much like field hockey.

No matter how it all began, ice hockey evolved and has become the national sport of Canada and its popularity spread across the United States and throughout the world.

Article Photos

The United States 1932 Olympic Ice Hockey Team

Photo courtesy of the Olympic Museum

Ice hockey first appeared in the Olympics when it was played as part of the Olympic Summer Games in Antwerp, Belgium in 1920. This marked the beginning of Canadian Ice Hockey dominance in the Olympic Games.

In 1932, organizers believed a large number of hockey teams would compete in the Lake Placid Olympic Winter Games. However, that did not happen. At the time, the Great Depression was affecting the world economy and prevented several teams to travel the long distance to the United States and ultimately only four countries entered the hockey competition: Canada, Germany, Poland and the United States.

Due to the limited number of teams entered, the International Olympic Committee had to give permission for additional exhibition games to be played by non-Olympic teams so the schedule would meet the required number of scheduled games. Oddly, one of these games combined Olympic players from the United States and Canadian teams to play against the Lake Placid Athletic Club. The Olympic players were all dressed in United States jerseys, but as a mixed team, they must have had a hard time coming up with enough matching stockings because the only way anyone could tell if it was a Canadian or US player, was by looking at the stockings because the Canadians had to wear their own. It has been said that the exhibition face-off was one of the best games to watch. The final official game of the 1932 Olympics was between the United States and Canada. Once again, Canada won.

The difference with winning this gold medal was that it was the first time in Winter Olympic history, that part of the hockey schedule was held indoors. In 1932, half of the hockey games were held outdoors within the speed skating oval, and the others played in the newly built Olympic Arena, where inclement weather could not interrupt the Games.

When looking at old photographs of the hockey teams from 1932, one can't help but pay attention to the uniforms and equipment from back in the day and contemplate how different it was from today. Like most museums, the Lake Placid Olympic Museum has encountered some mysteries within their collections. For years, the staff at the museum has not been able to figure out why some of the 1932 United States Ice Hockey players had a white band around their jerseys.

After searching the archives for answers and asking Olympic scholars, it wasn't until just recently we discovered that the purpose of the white bands was to differentiate between defensemen and forwards. For instance, if a forward saw a player with a white band (defensemen) ahead of him, it was a signal for the forward to stay back and temporarily fill in the defense position.

The museum has on display the hockey equipment from the 1932 US goaltender, Franklin Farrell. Farrell was the only member of the team to have been given any type of head gear or protection. The mask he wore seemed to protect the glasses he wore more than his face. Protective equipment in hockey certainly has come a long way since 1932.

To learn more about the early days of ice hockey, please visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum in the Olympic Center. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Ironman Sunday.

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