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 8.4: Fallout from R.C.A.F. FLYERs Exhibition Hockey Game vs. ARMY & Belleville
                 – The PLAYER REVOLVING DOOR

RCAF Flyers vs. Army Headquarters Hockey Game at the Ottawa Auditorium December 15th 1947 & The Aftermath

Monday December 15th 1947 was the date of the RCAF Flyers vs Army Headquarters hockey game Ref: 8.5 at the Ottawa Auditorium.
The Army, still seething from their exclusion in the Olympic affair, poured everything into it – as they should of.

Image: Newspaper Headline Army defeats Flyers Image: Boxscore Army vs RCAF Flyers

Final result: Army 6 and RCAF Flyers 2.
Bill Cowley's Army team chalked up their fourth straight victory in the Ottawa City League.
Although the game was hard fought throughout, clever passing plays, constant backchecking and a standout performance by Kenny Duncan in the nets for Army were key factors in their victory.

The Army's top line were able to successfully tie us up and prevent us from executing most of our set plays. This changed somewhat in the third period when we were able to hem the Army squad in their own end and press the action there. Army spent most of the period shooting the puck up ice.

In the second period, Orval Gravelle, who again had a good game, tipped in a shot I made on net to put the Flyers on the board. Andy Gilpin got the only other Flyer goal in the third period when our pressing style finally paid off with a goal.
But it was too little too late. This was our second high profile loss in a row with the spotlight clearly on us.

This was not the Air Force's finest hour. The brass knew it. The CAHA knew it. The public knew it. And the press knew it.

Immediately following the game, Mr. Dawe had an "emergency meeting" with RCAF officials. The upshot was that drastic changes had to be made. The RCAF was to go ahead with whatever strengthening it could by auditioning new players and the CAHA was to dig up a couple of defensemen for the team. It was reported that Air Marshal Wilf Curtis, chief of the air staff, was not pleased!

The dream of bringing glory to Canada was crumbling.

And the reputation of the RCAF was suffering a humiliating blow.

Air Marshall W.A. Curtis, chief of air staff stated;
"I'm sick with disappointment.
We had such high hopes. There was such enthusiasm and such support.
The team is going to have to quickly strengthen itself immeasurably or it will have to be withdrawn.
This thing is bigger than the RCAF, bigger than the CAHA; it's as big as Canada's prestige at the Olympics.
I think we can still do it.
We haven't much time, but there must be some players of required ability available somewhere, and we will find them.
On Saturday the defence was deplorable. Why I could have run down the ice faster than some of the players skated.

After the loss to Army, Air Commodore Dave E. Mackell, deputy member for Air personnel stated;
"Guess we need a few more players to make a good team but we will not quit.
A couple of good defence players, about two good forwards and a strong goal tender will fix us.

Bill Cowley, coach of the Army team that beat the Flyers, normally a man of few words had the following to say;
"My club is not in good condition and may not have been so strong in the third period, but even at that any Olympic team should be beating us.
I could not figure out what hockey system or plays the Air Force were using.

Boucher later stated:
"Sandy Watson's neck was really on the line now. So was mine. We really didn't have a lot of time left."

Image: Newspaper icon

Several Press Announcements which followed best tell the story without too much emotion:

RCAF Flyers vs Belleville Dec 19, 1947 & Continued Press Discussion

Image: Dec 20 1947 News Headline RCAF Flyers Win in Belleville
Image: Dec 20 1947 News Headline 2 RCAF Flyers Win in Belleville
Image: RCAF Flyers Renaud Schroeter Leichnitz in Win in Belleville
Image: Box Score of  RCAF Flyers Win in Belleville

We won Friday's (December 19th, 1947) game in Belleville 8–4 against the Belleville Intermediate Ontario Hockey Association squad so we were somewhat pleased with ourselves. You could see that there was a lot more interaction and team work – perhaps since we had a few games under our belt as a team and the new Burghs line knew each other's moves. Ross King had a good game in nets.

We were still not loose and definitely had more work to do.
The newspapers commented ; "that our squad still did not look like world-beaters and had the Belleville goalie been a bit sharper in the last period the score would have been a lot closer".

Coach Boucher re–enforced this view re–iterating that further changes could still occur.


The CAHA still had not been forthcoming with any defensemen candidates as promised the previous week following the loss to Army.

Image: Newspaper icon The Dec 23rd, 1947 Ottawa Citizen carried a news article that said Ref: 8.8 :
"The Citizen has learned, unofficially, that the folks guiding the Air Force team figure that the lack of strength back of the blue line is not confined to the defense. The Olympic team could use a stronger goal–tender and in this connection, the name of Fred Murphy, under–study to "Legs" Fraser of the Quebec Senior League has been mentioned. (Murphy has also played a few games in nets for the Burghs)."

Obviously this drew the attention of our defense and goalie players.

For the next week or so we had daily practices at the Auditorium. We were progressively gelling into a team. The local newspapers kept reminding us that no word had been received yet from the CAHA regarding re–enforcements.

Photo: Picture of Several RCAF Flyers Outside of Beaver Barracks, Ottawa Dec 1947
Left to right: LAC Roy Forbes, F/O Hubert Brooks, Sqdn. Ldr. A.G. "Sandy" Watson, F/O Reg Schroeter, F/O Frank Dunster,
   AC1 Orval Gravelle, Cpl. Patsy Guzzo, Sgt. Frank Boucher, FSgt. Louis Lecompte

PHOTO Courtesy: Hubert Brooks Private Collection
Photo: Several RCAF Flyers Outside of Beaver Barracks, Ottawa Dec 1947
Photo: Picture of Several RCAF Flyers Outside of Beaver Barracks, Ottawa Dec 1947
Left to right: F/O Hubert Brooks, Sqdn. Ldr. A.G. "Sandy" Watson, F/O Reg Schroeter, F/O Frank Dunster, AC1 Orval Gravelle,

PHOTO Courtesy: RCAF Archives
Photo 2: Several RCAF Flyers Outside of Beaver Barracks, Ottawa Dec 1947

Amidst this turmoil, a story broke which brought no Christmas cheer to the team and our backers. On Christmas Eve 1947, Al Pickard, president of the CAHA, admitted he had considered withdrawing the civilian bolstered Flyers from Olympic competition, but said that exhibition game commitments overseas had already been made and would have to be honoured.
Image: Newspaper icon The Ottawa Journal warned:
"At best Sgt Frank Boucher, coach of the RCAF Flyers, has been given an intermediate team which should not be asked to play any exhibition games against any senior team in Canada."

Hubert Brooks Appears on Cover of Legionary Magazine

It was about this time that I made the cover of the Legionary monthly magazine that the Canadian Legion published. (The Legionary, No 6, Vol XXIII, December, 1947 Ref: 8.9 ) It was flattering however with the dynamics going on with the team I wished in a way that it hadn't didn't gone to press when it did. I knew I was frankly on the bubble in making the team. Being away from the game during the war, I had lost some of my timing and my stamina wasn't on par with a lot of the guys who stayed in Canada and played the game day–in–day–out. I was getting better day by day but there was a gap for sure with some of our elite players.

Photo: Hubert Brooks Featured on Cover of The Legionary, No 6, Vol XXIII, December, 1947 Photo: Legionary Magazine Article on Hubert Brooks

More Player Changes 12 Days Prior to Flyers Departing For Europe

TIMELINE: Dec 29,1947; my birthday; 12 days before our departure to Europe from New York City on the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner.

Image: Newspaper Headline Dec 29, 1947
Image: Newspaper Headline Dec 29, 1947 re RCAF Flyers Mara Halder Laperriere
Photo: RCAF Flyer George Mara Photo: RCAF Flyer Wally Halder Photo: RCAF Flyer Andre Laperrierre


On December 29, 1947 we had a practice at the Auditorium. At that time we had 21 players in camp vying for the 17 spots. The newly arrived New Edinburgh forward line of Reg Schroeter, Ab Renaud and Pete Leichnitz played together whereas I was the third on the line with George Mara and Wally Halder who had played with the Toronto Mercantile League. George and Wally were clearly talanted but also were not near game-condition with only occasional play this past winter. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that they would quickly improve. The other news was that Hugh Riopelle who was almost assured a spot on the team elected to drop out so as not to interfere with his studies.

Image: Newspaper icon The Ottawa Citizen Dec 29, 1947 page 1 article titled Ref: 8.10 :
3 NEW PLAYERS For Olympics – Toronto Boys Added To Hockey Squadron:
Three new players arrived in the city this morning to bolster Canada's Olympic hockey team, it was announced by the RCAF.
Two of the trio, Torontonians, in the fall of 1946 attended the New York Ranger farm school. They are Walter Halder, 27, former center and captain of the University of Toronto team 1945–46, who has been playing in the Toronto Mercantile League, and 26–year–old George Mara, who played junior hockey with Marlboroughs in 1941, and with the navy teams during the war. Both are center ice men, but they are to be converted if possible into defensemen, the RCAF announced.
The third of the trio, sent to Ottawa by the CAHA, is André Laperrière, 22–year–old defenseman from the Université de Montréal. He was picked out by Norman Dawe, first vice president of the CAHA.
The three players will be out to practice in the Auditorium this afternoon.

George Mara had played for the Toronto Marlboros junior hockey team. After declining an offer from the Detroit Red Wings during World War II, he instead served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy. George also had played for a number of navy teams during the war. His families business, the William Mara Company, was an importer of wines and spirits.

By the time the Royal Canadian Air Force Flyers came looking for help, George Mara was playing on the Barker's Biscuits team of the Toronto Hockey League. His recruitment happened after a chance meeting at Maple Leaf Gardens with prominent hockey official W.A. HEWITT, the father of hockey broadcaster Foster HEWITT. When Mr. MARA returned to his office, he found a message saying that Mr. HEWITT had called with an invitation to join the Olympic team. Mr. MARA balked, suggesting they try teammate Wally HALDER, a sales director for Lowney Chocolates with whom he had also played in the navy during the war.
"I put the phone down and realized I was missing an exciting opportunity," he once told National Hockey League writer Mike Wyman.
"So I called HEWITT back and said that I'd managed to make myself available."

Wally Halder (who at the was General Sales Manager for Lowney Chocolates in Canada) would turn out to be an outstanding addition being arguably our best player.

Image: Université de Montréal

Noman Dawe had called André Laperrière (a student at the Université de Montréal (U de M) at the time) at home one day and surprised him with the Olympic hockey team offer. André asked for a little time to think it over.
Dawe said;
"Fine, I'll call you back in 15 minutes!"
André talked to his parents who told him he'd be crazy to pass up on the opportunity. So when Dawe called back André told him " Yes".
Being one of the only French speakers on the team, I went out of my way to welcome André onto the team to make him feel a little more comfortable with the dynamic environment that he now found himself inserted into.

George Dudley, secretary–manager of the CAHA then phoned Sandy Watson and told him that the 3 players sent to the Air Force were the only reinforcements the CAHA could offer and that the airmen could pick their team safe in the knowledge that there would be no more last–minute newcomers.

Photo: Some RCAF Flyers in Their Practice Hockey Sweaters Shortly After André Laperrière Joined Team circa December 1947

PHOTO Courtesy: Hubert Brooks Private Collection
 RCAF Flyers in Their Practice Hockey Sweaters Dec 1947

Image: Newspaper icon Next day's (page 15 Dec 30. 1947) Ottawa Citizen heralded Ref: 8.11 :
Will Pare Olympic Hockey Team Tonight
Three Newcomers Impress At Workout

by Jack Koffman
With only 10 days remaining before they sail from New York........things are starting to hum in the camp of Canada's Olympic hockey forces. Three athletes joined the RCAF sextet for practice and Sqdn. Ldr. Sandy Watson announced that personnel to represent Canada at the Olympics will be made public following tomorrow's workout. Twenty–two players were at the practice yesterday with Selection Coach George "Buck" Boucher and his son, Manager Frank Boucher, in charge. To cut the roster to 17 for the Olympic trip means paring five from the squad but Manager Watson eliminated two of the candidates yesterday. ........
In the meantime, Manager Watson stated that the Olympic team will be kept busy once they hit the Old Country. They will sail from New York on Friday, Jan. 9th and once they hit London, will play two or three games in Wembley Stadium. From there, they head for Paris and a couple of games and then they will practice for a few days at Davos, Switzerland, before moving to St. Moritz.
The complete Canadian Olympic party will number 20. In addition to the 17 players, there will be Manager Watson, Coach Frank Boucher and Trainer George McFaul.

Photo: RCAF Flyer Dick Ball  

December 30, 1947     Scrimmage With Ottawa Senators

Buck Boucher made his Ottawa Senators available for a scrimmage game on the 30th. Although there was no hard hitting neither team fooled around and the play was hard fought.
We were defeated 10-4 in a 50-minute game our team clearly was much better. Dick Ball, a 3rd year Arts student at Toronto who played with the Varsity squad joined the Flyers that day and was steady in goal.



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

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