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 8.6: R.C.A.F. FLYER Team Funding & Rumblings of Discord with the USA Hockey Squad

While the team was going through the trials and tribulations of player selection and gelling as a team, Manager Sandy Watson had the additional problem of funding to cope with.

These were the days of almost zero funding for Canadian Olympians.

Former Olympic teams had financed themselves with exhibition games, proceeds from championship play and the governing organizations.
This Olympics the RCAF had not only taken the responsibility of building a team but also paid a good portion of the cost letting the CAHA for the most part off the hook for the expense.
The pay for the RCAF Regulars and Reserves ranged from the AC2 (such as star player Orval Gravelle) at $50/month with about $45/month in allowances to officers on the club getting as high as $190/month with about $60/month for allowances.

The CAHA did agree to a one-time grant of $13,000 to pay expenses for the team to travel to St. Moritz, but this was only a fraction of the total cost.

Sandy had been spending a good deal of his time scrounging for equipment and raising money for our European and Olympic games tour. He was able to get Tack skates from CCM, clothing and padding equipment from Spalding and sticks from Northland.

He had a few inspiring moments as previously mentioned collecting $6,000 as a result of talking (the unsuspecting) Barbara Ann to skate at the McGill exhibition game half–time, but generally it was an uphill climb to get the monies that we’d need to finance the entire European tour.

Sidney Dawes, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee and owner of Atlas Construction Company based in Montreal (and whose family owned Dawes Brewery of Montreal) called Sydney Dobson, the President of the Royal Bank of Canada, and asked for the bank's help in getting the team to the Winter Games.
The bank agreed and provided some financial support to help with some of the costs.
(Helping the RCAF Flyers was their first such Olympic venture and was the start of a long association of the Royal Bank of Canada and the Canadian Olympic movement.)

However, once the RCAF Flyers arrived in Europe, the "boys"… were on their own!

The European tour was to be was to be organized by Irish entrepreneur (some say impresario) "Bunny" Ahearne.
Mr. Ahearne was to arrange the pre– and post–Olympic exhibition matches, including travel and accommodation, and put up some front money to get us started. But his expectation was that all monies (and then some) would be paid back as a result of our share of the gate receipts.

Mr. Ahearne (and Sandy) had arranged a number or pre–Olympic exhibition games at London, Brighton, Paris and Davos, Switzerland to not only give us a chance to further whip into shape but also as importantly to raise some much needed cash.
(Some tentative post–Olympic exhibition games were also being organized.)

Each of the new recruits added to the roster had been put through medicals to become airmen in order to qualify for the team but also to qualify for airmen’s wages. Sandy put a lot of pressure on the new recruits to enlist, as the name of the team was the RCAF Flyers.
Some players like George Mara ( directly associated with the family firms and other industrial concerns in Toronto, including the William Mara Company, founded in 1871, importers of wines and spirits, including such brands as Teacher's, Beefeater, and Hennessy, and Jannock Ltd., a diversified Toronto manufacturing company with operations in the sugar, brick, tubular steel and electrical products businesses. These businesses had suffered with the death of his father on Christmas Day, 1942 and George had had to jump in to nurture them back to health.)
and
Wally Halder (who was General Sales Manager for Lowney Chocolates in Canada) were reasonably well off, and seemed to have suitable "connections" to remain civilians, but the rest of us needed our daily wage!

Occasionally there was mention of compliance with the Olympic oath, which is the honor testimony of an athlete that he is eligible for Olympic competition and is not being paid for his participation. There seemed to be little dispute with the airmen collecting their normal daily wages. So for example, civilian recruits Hibberd and Leichnitz were sworn into the Royal Canadian Air Force with the rank of aircraftsman 1 (AC1).

Later, while we were in Europe, I was to help Sandy out with some of the business interactions. In fact Sandy appointed me his Adjutant or Aide-de-Camp to help out with the team, the business activities, and dealings with "foreign" officials.

At that general time in late 1947, we had started to hear rumblings of a conflict down in the U.S. as to which amateur US hockey team would represent their country. The U.S. AHA (Amateur Hockey Association), with Canada’s support, was accepted into the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) in place of the U.S. AAU (Amateur Athletic Union). The AAU was backed by Avery Brundage’s powerful U.S.O.C.. Brundage was America's most jealous guardian of purity in the amateur sports world, sic. At the time we thought little of this internal U.S. squabble.

Little did we know as to how large an international incident this internal American squabble would become – threatening at one point, the entire Olympic hockey event!




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