Winnipeg Falcons: Champions
February 9th, 2018, marked the beginning of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. As many of us already know, NHL players did not participate in these Olympic games. In fact, the occasion will mark the first time in 20 years that the NHL did not participate in the Ice Hockey Event, and while many Canadians were disappointed, we should recall that only three of Canada’s nine Olympic Gold medals involved NHL players. Truth be told, the first Canadians to bring home the Gold medal for our country were military veterans rather than professional hockey players. These brave men would call themselves the Winnipeg Falcons.
Immigrants from the early 1900’s often faced prejudice and discrimination daily, even in the game of hockey. Outsiders within the community were not allowed to play on teams with their British counterparts. This led to the creation of the Winnipeg Falcons, a combination of two rival Manitoba hockey teams that were made up of immigrants primarily from Iceland. Despite the social hardships these men faced, when the First World War came around, the majority of the Falcons put their hockey careers on hold and enlisted.
During the war, the Falcon players would all serve their country bravely. Unfortunately, both George Cumber and Frank ‘Buster’ Thorsteinson would lose their lives fighting for Canada.
Following the war, the remaining members would return to Canada and win the Allen Cup, hockey’s top prize at the time. Their success would qualify the Falcons to represent Canada in the 1920 Olympic games in Antwerp, Belgium. After handily defeating all competing teams, the Falcons found themselves in the Gold Medal game against Sweden. The Canadians would be victorious in the final by a score of 12-1, cementing the legacy of the Winnipeg Falcon’s into Canadian history.
Read more about the success of the Winnipeg Falcons at the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
Main photo: The Winnipeg Falcons in Antwerp during the 1920 Olympic games. (Credit: Winnipeg Falcons/ The Canadian Encyclopedia/ Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame & Museum)