Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport Virtual Museum of Canada


Video Transcript

[Narrator - Rylan Strachan]

[Images of RCAF Flyers team and Louis Lecompte hockey jersey]

The performance by the Ottawa Royal Canadian Air Force Flyers at the 1948 Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland is considered one of the greatest moments in Canadian sports history. This jersey, worn by Flight Sergeant Louis Lecompte, demonstrates that the underdog should never be underestimated.

[Image of bomber plane, RCAF Flyers team, and Allan Cup trophy]

The Olympic Winter Games were revived after being cancelled during the Second World War. The International Olympic Committee implemented strict new rules on the definition of an amateur athlete in 1947 and prohibited professional players from competing. This prevented the Montreal Royals hockey team, winners of the Allan Cup Championship from representing Canada.

[Images of a military person being presented the Allan Cup, RCAF Flyers in military uniform]

Initially, Canada decided not to send a team because skilled amateurs could not be found. When Squadron Leader Sandy Watson learned this, he convinced his superiors to allow him to recruit former and current RCAF members for an amateur team. Over a period of three, short months players were hastily assembled from bases across the country.

[Images of RCAF Flyers playing hockey, 1948 RCAF Flyers Olympic and World Champions]

After poor performances at exhibition games in Canada, expectations were low and they were viewed as a bit of an embarrassment. However, right before the Olympic Winter Games their goalie failed a medical exam and Murray Dowey was added at the last minute.

[Images of RCAF Flyers in military uniform, game action from 1948 Olympic Winter Games]

Once the RCAF Flyers arrived in Europe, the team rose to the occasion as a result of bonding over war experiences and a genuine love of hockey. With Dowey's signature glove catch, they won six games, tied against the favoured Czechoslovakia Team, and in the final game they shutout Switzerland to win gold. This win shocked many who had doubted them.

[Images of RCAF players in a car in a parade, 1948 Olympic medal and team shot]

Upon returning to Canada, they received a heroes' welcome.

Today, the Ottawa RCAF Flyers remain a symbol of Canadian pride that encourages all people to never give up.

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