This Week in History

Winged Victory: Winnipeg Falcons Win Hockey Gold!

For the Week of Monday, April 23, 2018

On April 26, 1920, the Winnipeg Falcons won the very first Olympic gold medal in hockey.

The Winnipeg Falcons at the Olympic hockey rink in Antwerp, Belgium. All but one of the players were of Icelandic heritage, which is why they named their team after Iceland’s national bird.
© www.winnipegfalcons.com

Originally a showcase for summer amateur athletics, the Olympics gradually introduced other sports, adding figure skating in 1908 and ice hockey in 1920. Not until 1924 was there a separate Winter Olympics. Antwerp, Belgium, hosted the 1920 games. The city, which was still rebuilding after the First World War, embodied perseverance, a defining attribute of the Olympic spirit.

The hockey team representing Canada at the Games was the winner of the Allan Cup, Canada's national amateur championship trophy established in 1908. In 1920, that team was the Winnipeg Falcons. Within a week of winning the final match against the University of Toronto Varsity team, the Falcons were sailing to Antwerp.

This display in Winnipeg’s main hockey arena honours the Falcons. They have also been inducted into the Canadian Olympic Committee Hall of Fame.
© Walker32, Wikimedia Commons

Taking advantage of the cool spring weather, the Olympic hockey tournament took place in April, months before the other events. In advance of the official competition, the Falcons played a charity exhibition game and even helped to train the less-experienced European teams! Foreign reporters praised their on-ice play, which “had to be seen to be believed.” Under the leadership of team captain Frank Fredrickson were Bobby Benson, Wally Byron, Chris Fridfinnson, Mike Goodman, Hallie “Slim” Halderson, Konnie Johannesson, and Allan “Huck” Woodman.

The Olympic contest doubled as the first world hockey championship, since it was the first time that teams from Europe and North America competed. Each had seven players on the ice for two, 20-minute halves with no line changes. In addition, rules stated players could only pass the puck sideways or backwards.

The Falcons defeated Czechoslovakia (15-0), the United States (2-0), and Sweden (12-1) to win the gold medal. In celebration, Winnipeg welcomed the players home with a parade of more than 200 vehicles and a banquet at the Fort Garry Hotel.

In the years that followed, many of the Falcons continued to play hockey. As a member of the Victoria Cougars, Fredrickson even won the Stanley Cup, the sport’s most coveted trophy. The Cup’s creation is a designated national historic event and Fort Garry Hotel is a national historic site. To learn more about hockey in Canada, please read Hockey's Holy Grail and The “Father” of Ice Hockey in the This Week in History archives.

Parks Canada launched This Week in History 20 years ago! Check out @ParksCanada and visit the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada’s website.

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