Less We Forget Poppy

The Life and Times of Hubert Brooks M.C. C.D.
A Canadian Hero

Less We Forget Poppy

Chapter 8: R.C.A.F. Flyers Training for 1948 Olympics & Hockey Team Formation

Section 8.3: Fallout from R.C.A.F. FLYER "Olympic Night" Exhibition Hockey Game vs. McGill Redmen

Olympic Night December 13th 1947

Since the Olympic Night match announcement on November 19th or thereabouts, we'd had a few new team members added and a few exhibition games under our belt. This would be the first game however that we'd play without our RCAF professionals; Frank Boucher and Stan Rooke.

This Saturday Olympic Night, December 13, 1947 we were to play the McGill Redmen leaders of the Senior Intercollegiate League in what was billed as our first formal game as the RCAF Flyer team.

It was at this game that the RCAF Flyer team were expected to showcase our talent and hopefully fulfill the expectations of our benefactors and supporters. Proceeds of the game were to go towards the Flyer's Olympic Team's expenses overseas.

The day before, Frank Boucher added a new goalie, the RCAF's Joe Tunney of Newmarket, to our lineup.

The McGill team was one of the strongest of recent years. The team had 7 war veterans on the squad and included Cy Biegler, who played pre-war hockey with Boston Olympics; "Goose" Gosselin and Jack Millar. Goaltender for the Redmen was Jack Gelineau, regarded as one of the top netminders in amateur circles (who the following year would win the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year fpr the Boston Bruins). Gelineau was an air gunner during the war. Dave Campbell, experienced coach of the Redmen served in two world wars and coached a Canadian service team to a hockey championship overseas. However most of the players acknowledged that they could not qualify to take the Olympic oath.

The following "tentative" RCAF Flyer Hockey Team photo was released to the press by the RCAF a few days prior to Olympic Night.

Photo: Early RCAF Flyer Hockey Team Photo prior to McGill Olympic Night Match

For each of the 13 players initially selected the Air Force issued a brief bio.

On the day of the game the Montreal press had a brief photobios on some of their hometown boys - which of course included myself.

Image: Montreal Star Saturday December 13 1947 picture prior to Olympic Night
Tommy Moore (brother of Dickie Moore) and Andy Gilpin

Image: Montreal Star Saturday December 13 1947 Moore Gilpin

To understand the hype, the build–up, that went into this 1st formal exhibition game on Saturday December 13th, 1947:

Guests to Include (see also Guest in Attendance image in Olympic Program excerpts below):

  1. His Excellency the Governor General and Lady Alexander with a party from Government House
  2. At least 13 cabinet ministers including Health and Welfare Minister Paul Martin Sr. who was to present Barbara Ann Scott with a medal during intermission
  3. Sir Alexander and Lady Clutterbuck representing Great Britain
  4. Kurt Forcart, Swiss Charge d'Affaires representing the hosts of the 1948 Olympics
  5. Members of the diplomatic core
  6. Many war heroes including Air Marshall W.A. "Billy" Bishop top ace of WW I and Wing Commander J.E. "Johnny" Johnson RAF fighter ace of WWII (and who was then taking a staff course in Toronto)
  7. The chiefs of staff of the 3 armed services including Air Commodore D.E. MacKell
  8. Former olympic greats including Dr. Joe Sullivan goaltender of the Varsity Grads Olympic Champios in 1928 and Booby Kerr winner of the 200m at 1908 Olympics
  9. Mayor Lewis (Ottawa) and Mayor Brunet (Hull)
  10. Members of the Canadian Olympic Association, A Sydney Dawes president of the Olympic Committee and Prof. Nelson Hart - secretary
  11. CAHA members George Dudley and Norman Dawe - first vice-president
  12. .......and a full house of some 6,500 spectators was expected

... and in addition :

  1. and of course it would not be Olympic Night without a half time figure skating performance by, even at that date, the legendary Barbara Ann Scott who was to leave for Europe the following day to complete her training
  2. and a new march entitled "On to Victory" written by Stephen Vowden, assistant bandmaster of the RCAF Central Band has been dedicated to the Flyers and will be heard for the first time on Olympic Night
  3. and the RCAF Central Band, which has gained international acclaim since its formation 7 years ago, directed by FO E.A. Kirkwood will play on Olympic Night

George "Buck" Boucher, Canada based coach of the RCAF Flyers could not be present at the game - for as coach of the Ottawa Senators his prime responsibility was to coach the Senators during a 2 game trip to Boston and New York. George's son, Frank Boucher, the coach for the Flyers in Europe, would coach the team for the Flyers first formal opening game.

Buck Boucher commented; "that he thought the team was in fine shape reaching its peak form and had every confidence in the team" then left for Boston.

S/L Sandy Watson, manager of the Flyers, had been in hospital for the past week, but expected to be out to see the initial test of his Olympic squad.

Anyone who was the least bit associated with the R.C.A.F. Flyer Olympic Team had a page with a picture and a few fine words of support in the Olympic Night Program which all would be read again a second time after the game!

What follows are some pages imaged from the Saturday December 13th "Olympic Night Program". (click on Olympic Night Program Olympic Night LINK to view entire program)
There were a total of 6 pages devoted to R.C.A.F. Flyers pictures and capsule biographies, 3 Flyers/page. An example biography page that I was featured on is shown below.

Photo: Olympic Night Program Cover Photo: Olympic Night Program Wilf Curtis Message

Photo: Olympic Night Program Sidney Dawes Message Photo: Olympic Night Program Guests In Attendance

Photo: Olympic Night Program Al Picard Message Photo: Olympic Night Program RCAF Flyer First Appearance Message

Photo: Olympic Night Programme Photo: Olympic Night RCAF Flyer / McGill Redmen Team Lineups

Photo: Olympic Night EXAMPLE RCAF Flyer Bio Page with Hubert Brooks
Photo: Olympic Night Barbara Ann Scott
National Council on Physical Fitness 1st Presentation of N.A.A.A. Award
To Miss Barbara Ann Scott
PHOTO Courtesy: Hubert Brooks Private Collection of Olympic Night Programme
Photo: Olympic Night Barbara Ann Scott

Photo: Olympic Night Programme Sports Notes

Photo:  Olympic Night Box Score

Just prior to game start, it was announced that indeed we had a full house with 6,500 spectators in attendance.

Stan Pratt and Garnie Marshall were the officials.

Photo:  Newspaper Headline RCAF Flyers vs McGill

Well - we got creamed! In the end, it wasn't even close. .

At the end of the second period, Governor General Viscount Alexander came into the dressing room and asked,
"What is the matter with MY team?"
Coach Boucher replied,
"Sir, if I knew I'd fix it!"

It was a scoreless game for the first 18 minutes of play when the Redmen's Hackett banged in a rebound from a tough shot by Meagher. After the first period it was all McGill and became a one-sided game.

Despite the final score, our new goalie Joe Tunney played a good game and the score would have been much higher without some of the fine saves he made. Our team just did not give him the defence protection we should have. Tommy Moore and Orval Gravelle had a good game but everyone else was just flat and things just did not click.

The final score was 7–0, in favour of McGill.
McGill was clearly the better team that night, playing rugged hockey, with solid checks, and speed to spare - which allowed them to continually go in deep for goals - knowing they had the ability to return to catch any breakaways by the Flyers. Future Calder Trophy winner, Jack Gelineau, who moved on to play for the Boston Bruins, had an excellent game in goal for McGill.
Yes we were in the spotlight, and yes there was a lot of pressure on us to perform, but when things started to go wrong we simply did not have the skills that night or team chemistry to be patient and play our game.
Coach Frank Boucher summed it by saying; "the players did not relax, forgot their combinations and were much below recent form. They had no troubles with Queen's which McGill needed an extra period to defeat."

Yes it was true that McGill University had one of the strongest teams that they had had in years, and that they were in the midst of their league schedule and that they were currently tied for leadership in the Senior Intercollegiate hockey loop – but it was more than that. We were simply not cohesive as a team and simply didn't have the conditioning to keep up with the Redmen. As well, they frankly had some very good players!

For those of you that have been in similar situations where results fell somewhat short of expectations, and in a very public fashion, with a number of reputations on the line, you might imagine the outcome.

The press had a field day.
Media reaction was ravaging.
Those in charge were suitably "shocked and promised swift action".
Any positive thoughts that any of us could have taken from the game were quickly quenched when we read what spewed out from the newspapers.

Image: Newspaper icon

The December 15, 1947 Montreal Gazette had the Sports page headline "TEAM PROVES INADEQUATE for OLYMPIC GAMES"
Ottawa, December 14 - A perplexed RCAF hockey executive and an equally baffled CAHA were wondering today where they could find a hockey team to represent Canada in the Olympic Winter Games at St. Moritz next February. This was the result of the 7-0 pasting a fast-skating smoothly-working McGill hockey team plastered on the RCAF "Olympic" representative here last night at the Auditorium.
It wasn't so much the score that mattered but how badly the Air Force team looked in losing. Competent hockey observors who saw the game were unanimous in declaring that the Air Force side could not possibly represent Canada at the Olympics and added further that as the team is presently constituted it would mean complete replacement if the Dominion is to be adequately represented at the Olympics. ..................

Some news article highlights from the Ottawa Citizen Dec 16th, 1947 newspaper Ref: 8.4 :

Later, Coach Boucher said:
"I do not know who organized that exhibition game, but we weren't ready. We hadn't gelled as a team yet."

The only positive from the game – as we'd later find out – is that Manager Sandy Watson had obtained a $6,000 appearance fee for arranging for Barbara Ann Scott to skate at half time – something that neither Miss Scott nor her manager mother realized at the time!
Thank you Barbara Ann

The outcome of this game, reinforced by the Army Headquarters game which closely followed, set forth a set of actions that few of us could have anticipated.


The Life and Times of Hubert Brooks M.C. C.D.

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