ENVOYS ON ICE
IN SPITE OF the pictures you see in the rotogravure sections of the week-end newspapers, all Canadian ambassadors do not wear high hats. Besides the middleaged gentlemen who put on knee breeches, silk stockings and trick hats to get themselves presented at Court, and who are always having their photographs taken shaking hands with princes and prime ministers on the decks of palatial liners or in dingy railroad stations, there is every year in Europe a sizable delegation of robustious young Canucks who go over tourist or work their way on freighters, and who roam up and down a dozen lands of Continental Europe spreading the fame of Canada and the Canadian people, causing nice things to be printed about Canada and Canadians in numerous queer-looking foreign publications.
The presence of these unofficial envoys in Europe is purely fortuitous. Their errands are supported by no parliamentary benisons such as are bestowed upon ministers, plenipotentiaries, trade commissioners, governmental experts and delegates to official conferences. Nevertheless, there is evidence to back a pretty solid argument that they actually exert a greater direct influence on the common people of the lands in which they travel than do the brassbound diplomats in gcxxi standing at Ottawa. Certainly more folks know about them, recognize them on the streets, and [x*ster them for autographs, than ever knew about, recognized, or pestered our most celebrated governmental emissaries, however heavily laden with gold braid.
They are hockey players.
The thing is simple enough when you figure it out. The grave deliberations of our foreign representatives in the chancelleries of Europe are matters of concern to politicians, bankers, economists, statesmen and merchant princes. The dashing deeds of our puck chasers excite policemen and plumbers, barbers and bell hops, tinkers and tailors, clerks and cab drivers, salesmen and shopkeepers. There are a great many more of the latter classes in this world than there are of the former. Q.E.D., if you remember your Euclid.
Not only are the tours of various Canadian hockey teams, Ottawa Shamrocks and Saskatoon Quakers, for example, through a dozen European countries, the subject each winter of much animated discussion, but recently new developments have brought about a steady and increasing infiltration of individual Canadian athletes lured from their home ice by shrewd foreign promoters eager to enlist the benefits of their playing skill and cunning stratagems on behalf of local aggregations. It has been demonstrated that the presence of even one hard-skating, close-checking, wily Canuck on a European team may transform a ragged, inchoate organization—brimful of enthusiasm but practically vacant of dexterity— into a smooth-clicking, highly efficient hockey machine. Thus it happens that while a lot of Europeans are interested in Canadian wheat, a lot more are absolutely gaga about Canadian hockey players.
Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Milan, Praha Prague if you are old-fashioned—the Swiss resorts of St. Moritz, Davos,
Zurich, Basle and Berne, Stockholm and Oslo and Budapest have all gone nuts about hockey during the last year or so. Stroll in winter through the business sections of these ancient cities and you will find store windows filled with Canadian-made hockey equipment, prominently displaying brightly colored group photographs of famous Canadian hockey teams: Maple Leafs of Toronto, Canadiens of
Montreal, Hawks of Moncton. Mingle with the crowds and you will hear if you can understand their language, French, Germans, Italians, Czechs, Slovenes, Swiss, Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Poles and Englishmen, too, talking and arguing about Canada.
“I hear that in Milano this year they have two new Canadians, very gcxxi.”
“Ah, but here in Paris we have also two Canadians who arrive shortly.”
“That team from Praha will bear watching, my friend. They, too, are coached by one of these Canadians.”
“It is too bad that we cannot yet play hockey like Canadians, but, after all, it is their own game, is it not? In the years to come we shall have our own young men, just as gcxxi hockey players as these Canadians. Then we shall beat them, eh? Why not?”
The Star, leading Czechoslovakian sports journal, an elaborate publication going in heavily for excellent rotogravure reproductions, devotes an entire back page of pictures to Ottawa Shamrocks udrzeli si svoji kanadskou potest i pri dalsich startech v Praze. We haven’t the faintest idea what it means, but you can tell right away that it’s highly complimentary. And the pictures are swell. Those boys know how to get real action into their camera shots.
A special issue of Interno, an Italian magazine, published in connection with the so-called world’s championship tournament held last winter at Milano, contains a long article in praise of hockey written by Frank Roncarelli, who learned the game in Montreal. Every European newspaper displays similar symptoms of hockey fever in a dozen different languages. They’re bugs about the game.
Europe’s conversion to hockey as a major winter sport is recent, but it has been amazingly rapid. Until a few years ago only the Scandinavian countries and the high plateaus of the Swiss Alps offered reasonably dependable facilities for the creation of natural ice-playing surfaces. Such artificial ice rinks as existed were small, constructed for fancy skating, with surfaces too cramped for hockey, offering sparse accommodation for spectators. The trick of manufacturing artificial ice rapidly, at low cost and in almost unlimited quantity, has changed that picture entirely, just as that same development has made our own modem ice palaces possible. During the last four or five years, enclosed rinks with artificial ice surfaces have sprung up almost in a score of important European cities, some of them equipped to rival the finest we have in Canada. In the Scandinavian countries and among the towering Swiss Alps the game is still played on natural ice, often in the open air; but in
Great Britain, France and Germany, Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia and other Central European countries, new Forums, Arenas and Gardens pack ’em in all winter long for exhibition and international contests. And they love it.
Howie Coaches Czechoslovakia
/^VNE DAY last summer this reporter bumped into Howie Grant on St. Catherine Street in Montreal. Howie Grant is a hockey player. He was bom at Coaticook in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and he played his first important hockey for Lennox ville High School. His family moved to Montreal and Howie caught on with the Victoria’s, oldest hockey club in the world, and with Northern Electric in the fast Montreal RailwayPhone League. He was with Vies in 1925 when they lost to University of Manitoba in the final round for the Allan Cup. He has turned out with La fontaine Intermediates in the Mount Royal League and one season he got restless or something and trotted down to Hershey, Pa., to play for Hershey Bars.
Howie’s a forward, playing either on the left wing or in the centre ice spot. Not another Morenz—even though they do call him Howie— but a useful lad to have around any man’s hockey club, he knows how to score goals, and after a dozen years of campaigning among the best amateur teams in Canada and the United States, he’s wise to several bags of tricks. We were glad to see him again, and asked: “Where were you last winter?”
Howie Grant said he was playing hockey.
“Naturally. But where?”
“Oh! Why, in Praha.”
“Praha. You know, Czechoslovakia. They used to call it Prague, but it got shifted around after the war.” We said: “Oh, Prague. Sure. Yeah, of course. Prague, Praha. Listen, you’d better tell us some more about this.” So the rest of this story is really Howie Grant’s. It isn’t every day that you meet a Canadian hockey player who put in last winter playing for Praha.
In Winnipeg a few years ago there lived an up-andcoming young businessman whose native land was Czechoslovakia. His name was Louis Hamat, and he was notorious for running a permanent high fever during every hockey season. Louis Hamat married a Winnipeg girl and moved back to his native land about the time that Praha began to get emotional about hockey. There he formed a friendship with one Mr. Citta, a sugar magnate who happens to be guardian angel of the Lawn Tennis Club of Praha—LTC in the public prints, because Continental Europe comes close to being as daffy over alphabetical designations as Franklin Roosevelt’s United States. The name Lawn Tennis Club doesn’t mean a thing, or rather it means everything you can think of in sports from checkers to curling. LTC goes for hockey base over apex in the frigid season, for the Czechs are a hardy race simply revelling in roughs and tumbles. They go jittery over hockey especially when the home boys are smacking the ancient enemy for a row of Chinese ashcans, and they hate to lose.
Therefore it occurred to Mr. Louis Hamat that if a few of Canada’s strenuous young athletes could be persuaded to go in for travel in a big way, the general cause of hockey in Europe might be notably advanced, and the LTC hockey club of Praha might even get an edge on its hated rivals.
In the summer of 1933, Mrs. Ix>uis Harnat paid a visit to her native Canada. While here, Mrs. Harnat sjx)ke at
length and at frequent intervals on this matter to numerous people who might be in positions to know about hockey players with gypsy blood in their veins. Howie Grant was one of those singled out by Mrs. Hamat and her advisers.
"So,” said Howie Grant, “next thing I know I am coaching the Praha LTC hockey team and playing in the centre ice spot in a country where the only words of the language I know to start with are ‘hot’ and ‘cold’. I got those off the bathroom taps.”
Grant was by no means the only hockey ambassador cutting Canadian cajx'rs in Europe last winter. Eddie Grommoll and Charlie Huilquist went over with him from Ottawa, travelling tourist on the Empress of Britain, which is a very nice way to travel, especially if you are a young and carefree hockey player with a yen to see the world. Dr. Gordon Mackenzie, of Winnipeg, whose brother Bill is on the payroll of Montreal Maroons, coached the Sparta Club, also of Praha. Gordon Dewar, remembered from Toronto ’Varsity was master-minding for the Hungarian team, and “Fan" Heximer of Niagara Falls turned up in Berlin, heiling Hitler and talking like a Dutch uncle to the Gemían puck chasers.-
Frank Roncarelli is the big shot of hockey in Italy. Frank played for Lower Canada College and McGill a few years back. After the death of his father, a famous Montreal restaurateur, Frank returned to his native land, where his mother joined him later. Signora Roncarelli is a hockey fan in her own right, possessing emphatic opinions and a fluent vocabulary, as Howie Grant discovered when he assisted in refereeing a game at Milano which turned out a total loss to the Fascist cause.
Frank ran the International Tournament at Milano practically single-handed, greeting players, arranging hotel accommodations, fetching and carrying all over the place. Twelve countries were represented, their names appearing on the programme in alphabetical order so that nobody’s feelings would be hurt. Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Roumania, Switzerland and the United States. “That tournament,” says Howie Grant, “had the League of Nations backed clean off the map.”
Cammy Seale and Bob Edwards, both star performers with Montreal Victorias a few seasons back displayed their talents and handed out sage advice with the Zurich team in Switzerland last winter. Bobby Bell, of Montreal, brother of Billy Bell, who referees for the N.H.L. when he isn't building bridges, seems to be a permanent fixture in Zurich. The Club Rapid, Paris, had Boson and Cadoret from Ottawa. In Great Britain, Canadian hockey players were so plentiful there was talk of asking Chancellor of the Exchequer Neville Chamberlain to slap a quota on them. The swanky Queen's Club of London numbered among its experts Arthur Rice-Jones and Archie Creighton from Winniprg; L. W. “Pop” Kerr, from Chatham, N.B.; and Frankie LeBlane, of Dalhousie, N.B., a former member of Moncton Hawks, twice winners of the Allan Cup.
Canadians figured prominently in the doings of the Oxford and Cambridge hockey teams, and the Grosvenor House Club was practically an all-Canuck outfit. You couldn't chuck a programme at a referee in one of those British games without hitting a Canadian hockey player. “Spink” Duncanson, of Winnipeg, who once represented Canada in the Olympics; Lyle Holmes, of Winnipeg Elmwoods; Glen Morrison, George McWilliams, and Gordon Dallie, all Winnipeg boys, the last named a former member of the University of Manitoba team, were in there for various British teams. So was Tommy Thompson, born a Canadian who has lived in England for years and Jimmie Borland, bom English, but who learned his hockey around Montreal.
This by no means exhausts the roll call. Dozens of footloose Canadians, circulating around in Europe on business or pleasure bent, turned out with various teams, some of them more or less permanent fixtures, others taking a casual whirl at their favorite sjxjrt, if, when, and where the opportunity presented itself.
Game is Loosely Organized
BECAUSE ICE hockey has come so rapidly to the front as a major sport, and perhaps also because of those fierce and deep-rooted international jealousies that are so potent a factor in the European scene, the game is as yet but loosely organized. There are no leagues or associations as we know them. The International Tournament, played in a different capital city every year, is the high spot of the season. This competition is organized on the lines of British international sports, and players may perform only for the country of their birth, which bars the expatriate Canadians. Canada, of course, is represented by her own team. The other big-time tournament is the battle for the Spangler Cup, the final of which is played annually on New Year’s Eve at Davos, Switzerland. National barriers are down in the Spangler Cup play-offs and each country picks a team from the best material on hand. As a result it frequently happens that Canadian players who have been opponents over here find themselves battling again on behalf of Austria or France, Czechoslovakia or Switzerland. Maybe you
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Envoys on Ice
Continued from page 9—Starts on page 8
think the boys don’t get a kick out of that!
For the balance of the season the clubs play exhibition games against each other. But as often as not there is a distinct international tang about those contests, and they’re plenty hot. Until last season, for I reasons of this and that, which you can ! figure out for yourself, the Czechoslovakian ! hockey players had not beaten Austria in I Vienna since before the first blue line was drawn on ice, although numerous Czech teams had smacked the Austrians down in Praha. When Howie Grant took his gladiators to the Austrian capital last winter and master-minded them into a two to zero triumph, getting the first goal himself and j making the play for the second, he could j have had the Czechoslovakian Presidency ! for the asking, only it would have hurt his amateur standing.
SÍ) far European rules have been put together on a trial and error basis, so ¡ that to Canadians they appear to be more than a trifle screwy. A movement inspired chiefly by Canadians playing in Europe and backed by the British results in the adopI tion of Canadian amateur rules for the 1934-1935 season, with a few minor modifications. European clubs play the six-man game, but hitherto playing time has been limited to three fifteen-minute periods, j with the teams changing ends halfway through the third period to ensure that each team defends each goal for the same length of time. They have been using the blue lines, but have permitted the forward pass in the centre ice zone only. Most penalties have been for one minute only, and packing the defense has been outlawed.
Reasonably enough, native European playersmany of them football stars who went in for hockey as a side line have lacked the facility on skates which marks Canadian players born with hockey sticks in their hands. They are as a rule clumsy skaters by our standards. High sticks and tripping, often entirely unintentional, are likely at any moment to gum up smoothly planned plays. Some queer slant of the European mind causes body-checking to He warmly resented by the fans, while a trip or a high stick is considered as all in the game. The crowds react in pretty much the same manner as Canadian crowds, and the newspaper and programme bombardment is a familiar sight when the referees are under fire.
Refereeing is considerable of a problem. There are no paid officials, and the whistlemen are volunteers, usually players or coaches of teams not participating in that particular debate. It makes a lot of difference to their peace of mind if the home boys get the breaks, and nobody wants to be cussed at in half a dozen different languages.
I In the circumstances it is hardly to be ! expected that the officials would bear down ! too hard.
Drinks—with a kick in themare served to the crowds, but, generally speaking, the spectators are well-mannered and fair, unless some special national jealousies are aroused. Only a few rinks are equipped with electric light signalling systems. The goal umpires wave a flag to indicate that the rubber disc has bulged the twine.
Canadians are Well Liked
CANADIANS ARE well liked in European hockey circles, Howie Grant says. The players, whether individuals or in touring teams are heartily welcomed everywhere, lavishly entertained, widely publicized, and generally admired. I-ast winter’s tourists. Ottawa Shamrocks and Saskatoon Quakers drew big crowds. Both tours were well managed and the boys were warmly praised for their fast hockey and their gentlemanly conduct on and off the ice.
Many of the European clubs are backed, or at least assisted, by wealthy sportsmen who have caught the hockey fever. Mr.
Citta, the sugar millionaire who is chief sponsor of the ETC hockey team, is a splendid example of this type of citizen. He has a country residence where he enjoys entertaining his friends and hockey players, including any Canadians who may chance to be kicking around loose. To Mr. Citta’s Italian villa Howie Grant was invited shortly after his arrival in Praha. Howie has been in a lot of houses in different parts of the world, but this one, he says, was a knockout. The hat nick was a bronze tree sprouting hockey sticks, and on the panels of various doors were painted portraits of Praha’s star hockey players.
“You see,” explained Mr. Citta, “in the old days it was the custom of my country to have painted on the doors portraits of our famous war heroes. Now we are a peaceful people. My heroes are hockey players. So I have their portraits painted instead. A good idea, don’t you think?”
Well, why not?
Canadians of this generation who know major league hockey purely as an indoor sport may be surprised to learn that many European rinks, even those equipped with artificial ice plants, are open to the skies. Sometimes it rains or snows. Play goes on just the same, and the spectators turn up their coat collars and raise umbrellas.
Vienna has a huge artificial ice rink in the open air, with sufficient space to play four games at the same time. Boundaries are marked by board fences placed in position or removed as required. The Praha rink is another big open air affair with synthetic ice, and similar conditions exist at Zurich, Basle and Berne. At St. Moritz and Davos the game is played on natural ice, also in the open. Milano has an enclosed Í rink with an artificial surfaceand accommodation for around 4,000 spectators. Rinks at Budapest and Paris are about the same as at Milano, while the big enclosed rink at Berlin seats 10,(XX) and is often used for Nazi rallies. In Great Britain there are enclosed artificial ice rinks in several large cities, notably in Ixmdon, Birmingham and Glasgow, and they are planning a new rink at Wembley on a most elaborate scale with a seating capacity of 15,000. European prices range from thirty-five cents for standing room to $2.50 for box chairs.
All the principal European dubs are well equipped according to the latest Canadian ideas, usually with made-in-Canada gear. The players have learned to be fussy about their uniforms, and especially fussy about their skates. Even the junior teams, where the youngsters who will be future greats are trained, are rigged out to the limit, many of them more elaborately than is the case with our own kid clubs.
There is no question any longer as to the popularity of hockey in Europe. The game has caught on and will stick. It is by no means impossible that in a season or two a European team may tour Canada, just by way of returning the frequent visits of our tourists. We asked Howie Grant to name a possible all-star European team. He said:
“Hold on a minute, I’m not looking for trouble. I’ll give you a few names on the strict understanding that I make no claim to be an expert. Nothing is guaranteed, but on such a team I’d want Perka of Czechoslovakia for goal. He’s generally considered the best net minder on the Continent. For the defense, I’d take Romer of Germany, Stertin of Austria and Frank Roncarelli of Italy. Up in the front lines I’d like to pick from Jaenke and Kuhn of Germany, Malacek and Hromodka of Czechoslovakia, Torriani and Cettini of the Swiss team and Davey from England.
“That may not be the best selection in Europe, but stacked up against our Allan Cup winners, they’d make the Canadian boys step fast to win. I’d like to see that game.”
So would we.