IS THIS A TIME FOR PRO SPORT?
H. H. ROXBOROUGH
IT WAS mid-September and in Canada husky young hockey players were dusting off skates and sticks. In the United States, managers of professional and amateur hockey teams which call heavily on Canada for their ice talent were polishing off winter schedules. Suddenly a bombshell exploded in Winnipeg. Mr. Justice J. E. Adamson, chairman of the Manitoba Division of the National War Services Board, refused passport authority to six Winnipeg players seeking to join the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League.
“Passport authority will not be granted hockey players between the ages of twenty-one and twentyfive who were unmarried before July 15,1940,” the ban was explained by Lieut.-Colonel C. D. McPherson, district registrar, “because they are top-notch material for the Canadian Army.”
Immediately sport, editorial and letters-to-theeditor columns broke into dispute as to whether this was unfair discrimination against the youthful hockey stars. “Few tears need be shed over the young hockey players who are prevented from filling engagements with American teams. . .” said the Toronto Globe and Mail. “It is more important that they should be shooting a rifle than a puck at this time. Certainly they cannot be permitted to run off to the United States while other’s of their age are held in Canada for military training.”
Citizens not keenly interested in sport asked why “heroes on ice” should be glorified when the modest lads of the R.A.F. are taking their lives in their Spitfires every day. The Manchester Guardian once headlined a report on a night of air raids over Occupied France: “R.A.F. wins by 6 to 3.” That, felt many a Canadian, was the only kind of game our athletes should now be playing. If other young fellows have left good jobs for army pay, why should hockey players continue to draw big money for doing all their battling on skates?
“When I see the sports pages of our newspapers I see great Goliaths of men in rugby and hockey uniforms. They are in the wrong uniforms,”
recently declared Judge J. A. McGibbon in a Cobourg, Ont., court. “All civilization is at stake and we go on as if we were at peace.”
But meanwhile voices were being raised across the border, as well. This blast, for instance, from Sports Columnist Dave Egan of the Boston Sunday Advertiser:
“Pm not pointing any verbal popgun at the hockey players. But I am pointing it at the Canadian Government. I’m saying that the standards for professional athletes in the good old U.S.A., which is not at war, are far higher than they are in Canada, which is at war. I’m saying that something is phony when a Hank Greenberg or a Hughie Mulcahy has to settle for $21 per month,* while our Canadian cousins continue to ring the cash registers.”
Egan told of a Boston amateur hockey team whose players were all U.S. citizens and which was having difficulty putting a team on ice because at least five players had been drafted. Yet teams in the same league representing other U.S. cities were having no trouble at all-all their players were imported from Canada.
“I can come close to saying,” continues Mr. Egan, “that Canada isn’t giving us very good lessons in unselfishness and patriotism. . . We’re all in favor of a great, well-trained, well-equipped army, but we’d go to training camps with greater goodwill if we thought that the Canadians, too, were going.”
Meanwhile, Manitoba and Saskatchewan War Services Boards had refused to grant hockey passports-but that’s as far as it went. Other provincial boards said they would grant authorities providing players would return within twenty-four hours if called by the Army. Sport writers demanded why puck chasers should be singled out for attention, simply because business took them over the border; fellows in other non-war businesses and not yet called for compulsory training were not being
interfered with. Why not leave hockey players alone till full conscription was ordered?
Four men with hockey at heart and pocketbooks to protect held a Winnipeg conference in October. They were President Frank Calder of the National Hockey League, Red Dutton, manager of the Brooklyn Americans, Lester Patrick of the New York Rangers and Col. John Kilpatrick, president of Madison Square Gardens Corporation. After Calder interviewed Mr. Justice Adamson and Col. McPherson of the Manitoba board, the latter announced, “There has been no change in the board’s ruling, but all hockey players have the right to make application for passport authority. They will be dealt with individually.”
Since then Col. McPherson has announced from time to time that no passport authorities have been granted by the Manitoba board, but he revealed that some players had transferred residence to Ontario. At least six Western players crossed the border through Ontario.
The Other Side
WHILE sport admittedly has its liabilities in wartime, it also has some valuable assets. Some of these are obvious, others are hidden. Yet if we are making an honest appraisal of the place of sport in wartime we should consider the helpful contributions already made by those who participate in and promote play.
For instance, have you ever pictured the enormous army of persons whose lives are touched by the sport-skill of a handful of Canadian athletes? Every Saturday night from early November till late March not more than thirty young men are playing hockey in Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto. These players provide immediate sport entertainment for about 12,000 fans who have crowded into the arena. The radio story of that game, provided by Foster Hewitt, reaches about 1,500,000 listeners in Canada. That there are thousands of listeners in the U.S. as well is shown by the flood of letters they write to Foster Hewitt.
On Sunday evening a condensed, recorded account, rebroadcast by the BBC, reaches out to uncounted listeners in the British Isles and wherever the British Broadcasting Corporation can be heard. It is impossible to estimate how many millions of people derive some measure of clean, inexpensive enjoyment from the play provided by just thirty Canadian athletes on any one hockey night. There are only some 125 players in the entire N.H.L.
The British broadcasts are the most important of all. Not only do they reach more people, more countries and greater distances, but they provide a tie that binds the Canadian soldiers overseas, wherever they may be, with the folks back home. They have been heard in Malta, Tobruk, Singapore and Gibraltar, and they will certainly get to Hong Kong. Evidence of this contact between home and abroad recently came to Foster Hewitt from a father who received from his son, a major in England, this câble, “Heard you rooting at the game. Too bad about score.”
Canadian sport not only contributes to morale in the fighting forces, but it also enables the war workers at home to secure a much-needed mental lift. Most workers in war production still spend twelve to sixteen hours a day away from the plant. How are they to spend these personal hours? True, motion-picture shows are still open. Beverage rooms show no tendency to close or even reduce hours of sale. But all workers and their families don’t prefer a frequent diet of movies and beer parlors. Many of them find their keenest satisfaction watching hockey, wrestling, boxing, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, rugby. Why shouldn’t these hundreds of thousands of workers have the entertainment they prefer?
Furthermore, games both for players and spectators are mostly played at hours that do not interfere with industry. Professional hockey, for instance, usually demands from its most enthusiastic supporter less than three hours a week, and that on Saturday evenings.
•U.S. Army draftees’ pay.
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Indeed, professional hockey, which so far has been the target of most of the “down with sport” advocates in my opinion has really been given a prominence it does not deserve. It has been estimated that there are 600,000 single men in Canada bebetween the ages of twenty-one to thirty-four. If all the recognized professional hockey players, single or married, of all ages, regardless of their physical rating, were to enlist to the last man, there wouldn’t be many more than 600. About one in 1,000 of those eligible.
Sports Cash For War
CANADIAN sport has also contributed generously to national revenue. The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association invested $40,000 in Canada’s first war loan. Just so soon as war was declared the C.A.H.A. informed Prime Minister King that it would give, not loan or invest, but give, without any strings attached, $10,000 to be used as the Federal Government deemed advisable. That amount was duly donated. In the second year of the war another $5,000 was given outright. That $15,000 will pay the year’s interest on investors’ bonds to the value of half-a-million dollars. In Ontario, the provincial hockey association annually donates $500 to the Red Cross.
Professional hockey, through taxation, has also made heavy contributions. True, this tax is paid primarily by hockey fans but it’s made possible by the presence of professional hockey, and the amount paid to Ottawa from this one source for the opening Rangers-Leaf game alone was nearly $3,500. Professional hockey players, apart from their personal taxes, make a further contribution in the respect that the salaries paid last year to Canadian players playing for American teams gave the Dominion Government the exchange on an amount reported to be $400,000.
No one, to my knowledge, is suggesting that this taxation is too high or too low, but it does seem reasonable to point out that sport does pay its way. It does more. It not only pays taxes, but it contributes much that is by no means compulsory. In fact, sport outside the Army is largely responsible for recreation in the Army. The Federal Government, for some reason, does
not provide the tools for play. Enlisted men are largely dependent for sports equipment on gifts by civilian organizations.
In Ontario, the Ontario Athletic Commission levies a two per cent tax on the intake of professional sport in the province. From this revenue, the Commission has expended $12,000 to purchase games material extending from cribbage boards to hockey nets. All this equipment was donated to troops in training in Canada. Similarly, the Sports Service League, an association of sports executives, has promoted games of every type from bingo to soccer. Proceeds have purchased playing equipment exceeding $35,000 in value for distribution to training camps. One softball team in Hamilton, Ont., played exhibition games that raised $8,000 for the support of play in the Army.
In addition, a great many clubs permit soldiers in uniform to see games at reduced rates or free of charge. A girls’ softball league at Sunnyside, Toronto, gave free admissions to thousands of enlisted men. Maple Leaf Gardens at one time not only invited hundreds of soldiers to be their guests, but also arranged a sportsmen’s association to provide free transportation to and from their quarters.
One Monday four American wrestlers, who were billed to headline a Thursday evening wrestling show, arrived in Toronto. They heard that the patients in a soldiers’ hospital would like to see them. Gladly, they went to the hospital. The mats were so thin and small that serious injury seemed quite possible. Despite these dangers, the wrestlers put on a fine one-hour show, and the soldier audience numbered only seventy-five.
These instances aren’t isolated for they can be paralleled in any community. They are typical of the unselfish endeavor of sports organizations all over Canada to provide entertainment for troops in training.
Athletes have enlisted or gone into war industries in numbers that may be surprising. Actual figures aren’t available, but there are signposts pointing to this conclusion. For instance, during the first year of the war, the decline in Canadian Amateur Hockey Association membership was so sharp that it totalled nearly one quarter of the previous season’s entire registration.
Rugby enrolment showed a like reduction. When the Balmy Beach Football Club started in 1941 preseason training, it was discovered that no fewer than fourteen of its 1940 team had volunteered and were not available for rugby. Hamilton Tigers, long famous for football successes, didn’t even operate during 1941, and have withdrawn from the league till the war is ended. The Intercollegiate Rugby Football Union, comprising Queens, Toronto, McGill and Western Ontario universities, has been disbanded for the duration. In prewar years national championships in boxing, wrestling, track and field, soccer and other games were annual events of Dom-
inion-wide importance, but this year none were held.
Where have the former players gone? In October, Major Conn Smythe, Toronto Maple Leaf’s manager, appealed for recruits for a sportsman’s battery. Within a few weeks the enrolment of 273 men was complete, and many applicants had been rejected. The ease with which first-class teams for any sport can be assembled in any training centre indicates that among the voluntary enlistments there has been no dearth of athletes. Last season, one in five of all the teams in the Ontario Hockey Association were all-soldier in composition.
WHILE Canada’s civilian sports activities have been somewhat restricted during the war period, it is interesting to know the extent to which sport has continued in England and even in Europe.
In the British Isles, soccer leagues, complete with schedules and championships have been regularly played and well attended. At Birmingham, England and Wales played an international football match. At Wembley in October, 60,000 persons, including Prime Minister Churchill, saw England play Scotland. That Wembley match wasn’t just a gesture toward play, it was real evidence that sport is desired and acclaimed by Britishers. Standing room sold up to 2s. 6d. and seats were priced as high as £l-l-0 each.
In the London Times you can still read that Wooderson runs mile races; Oxford and Cambridge meet for sports fixtures; such famous soccer teams as Arsenal, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Preston and West Ham are playing; rugby matches and field hockey contests are common. At Wembley, a football game was played between teams from Holland and Belgium and the description was broadcast to all the Occupied Countries and the Indies. The BBC finds a daily spot for “Sport News from Canada.”
Don’t think the English, Scottish and Welsh have been playing hooky from war. The Axis nations, the Occupied Countries and the Neutrals have also been playing games and using sport as a propaganda weapon. The Nazis recently told the world that Storch, a German athlete, had thrown the sixteen-pound hammer nearly 188 feet, while Lampert, another national champion, had hurled a discus over 175 feet and created a new world’s record. Last summer a German quartette, in competition, with each man running 800 metres, also established a new world’s mark.
Anyone interested in athletics knows that such performances aren’t given by athletes who just train casually. They are made only by those who are given every possible chance to study, practice and compete. At Dusseldorf, in Germany, an international swimming meet was held. At Milan, Italy, an international track meet was given great prominence.
During the summer of 1941, Denmark held its usual national swimming championships. Finnish Javelin throwers were flirting with world’s records. Sweden participated in a triangular athletic meet with Finland and Germany. The Vichy Government granted a special credit of 2,000,000 francs for the development of sports fields throughout France.
Even Russia, not normally noted for its athletic progress, boasted of a broad jumper who leaped twentyfour feet seven inches, and a pole vaulter who cleared fourteen feet four inches. Russia also held a series of 10,000 metre races in which 100,000 runners competed. The winner was soldier Vanin, in very good time.
United States, too, is alert to the possibilities of sport as a breeder of better international relationships. In November of 1942, the Pan-American games are to be held in Buenos Aires, and United States sportsmen are so enthusiastic they are raising $150,000 to back a team that will prove to be not only champions but also good neighbors.
Evidently, in many other countries there is little condemnation of sport. Instead, other peoples are using it to bind international relationships and to fit youth for national service.
All things considered, it is not improbable that if a vote could be taken on the desirability of continuing sport in wartime, the most enthusiastic supporters of its perpetuation would be the men already in uniform.
In this respect Prof. J. F. Macdonald, of University College, Toronto, recently said that Air Commodore Collishaw believed that the cancelling of intercollegiate sportt was to be deplored, because competitive games fit young men to be ace airmen. The air commodore explained that such sports as hockey and football develop split-second timing so necessary when striking a fatal blow to enemy airmen. Another famous flier informed a friend of ours that crash injuries to fliers with a good sport background were not so serious as to those who had not played games.
Indeed, even the Federal Government might give encouragement to the continuation of sport, for the first paragraph in the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association 1942 Handbook reads:
“The C.A.H.A. in accordance with the expressed wish of the Government of Canada has decided to operate its schedule and cup playdowns as usual this season.”
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A WATER-WHITE liquid into which zi. a shop worker dips his hands prior to starting on a job dries quickly to form a skin-protecting film. Not only is the skin protected but the film also prevents perspiration from coming in contact with the surface of delicate or finely-finished metal parts on which perspiration could cause rusting to start.—-Scientific American.