Four years before the first Olympic Winter Games, ice hockey made its Olympic debut at Antwerp 1920. The tournament was held in April, several months prior to most of the other Olympic competitions which took place in late August.
Canada was represented by the Winnipeg Falcons, who had just won the Allan Cup – the national amateur hockey championship. The Falcons had been founded in 1911 by players of Icelandic descent who were not welcomed into the existing men’s senior hockey scene in Winnipeg.
In 1916, every Falcons player enlisted to join The Great War. Two of the men – Frank “Buster” Thorsteinson and George Cumbers – lost their lives and were laid to rest in France. The rest returned to Canada and in the summer of 1919, they re-organized the hockey team. Just a few months later, they were on a train to Toronto for the Allan Cup final, and just days after that victory, they boarded a boat to Belgium.
With the Americans delayed by bad weather, Canada and the other invited teams – Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and Sweden – held practices. The skill and style of play displayed by the Falcons was eye-opening to the Europeans and their opponents had to quickly pull together more protective equipment.
It was not entirely unexpected, then, that the Canadians dominated the competition. In their first game on April 24, the Falcons defeated Czechoslovakia 15-0 without allowing a single shot on goal. The next day’s semifinal against the United States was much closer, but Canada came out on top, 2-0.
The final on April 26 saw Canada defeat Sweden 12-1 to claim the first ever Olympic gold medal in ice hockey.
The team’s leading scorer was Frank Fredrickson, who notched 12 of the Falcons’ 29 goals in the tournament. Slim Halderson added nine goals to the tally.