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Hindsight with Hindmarch

UBC professor shaped Canadian hockey in 1960s

09-05-09
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Robert Hindmarch (front row, fourth from left) served as GM of Canada's 1964 Olympic team. Photo: UBC Public Affairs

Forget about hippies, the Beatles, and student riots: the 1960s were a unique period for Canadian hockey. The amateur national team program was launched in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1963 under the supervision of the legendary Father David Bauer. And working hand-in-hand with him as GM and assistant coach was Dr. Robert Hindmarch, as the team secured a fourth-place finish at the 1964 Olympics at Innsbruck. A similar template would be used for the Canadian teams that competed at the 1965 (fourth), 1966 (bronze), 1967 (bronze), and 1969 (fourth) IIHF World Championships, as well as the 1968 (bronze) Olympics, although Hindmarch's involvement concluded after the 1964-65 season.

Dr. Hindmarch also coached the UBC team for 12 seasons, and worked extensively to develop amateur hockey across Canada. The Nanaimo native, who is a Professor Emeritus at the School of Human Kinetics at the University of British Columbia (UBC), was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame as a builder this year. IIHF.com's Lucas Aykroyd caught up with him recently in the host city for the 2010 Olympics to discuss his legacy and philosophy.

How do you feel when you see how far Hockey Canada has come today, compared to the old days when you had two separate, competing bodies in the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) and Hockey Canada?

I was right in the middle of that. There was a great dispute over the years going on about how to best to administer hockey in this country. But there's no ifs, ands, or maybes today: it has improved dramatically. And one of the people who made that happen was [Hockey Canada executive director] Bob Nicholson. Put him together with [current IIHF Council Vice-President] Murray Costello, and you have two of the best. They had a vision of what they should be. The first thing you recognize is that in any sport, the international element starts to take precedence over time. And you have to make sure you do not forget that. Take a look at what just happened in the World Baseball Classic, with the Americans going down in defeat. The next time, the United States is not going to want to lose. Well, that's exactly what happened with Canada. We weren't winning in the 1960s, and of course, everything was stacked against us, but that's neither here nor there. They're on the right track now, and they're developing hockey the way it should be developed.

What's an example that comes to mind?

I was saying to Bob earlier, we were very involved in bringing helmets in. People said: “Oh, no, people won't wear them.” I said: “Well, kids will have to wear them.” And then it was, “Don't think the National Hockey League players will ever wear them!” I said, “When those kids grow up, they'll wear them. They'll be used to wearing them as part of their outfit.” Same thing with face masks and mouthguards. And eventually, likewise, there won't be fighting anymore in the National Hockey League. You sometimes hear, “Well, fighting's part of the game.” Well, then why don't we start teaching the nine- and 10-year-olds how to fight, because it's “part of the game”? Then they'll say: “Oh no, not for kids.” What does that mean? You said it's “part of the game.” It's garbage. 10 percent of the players cause 90 percent of the fights. Did you see Wayne Gretzky start a fight, or Mario Lemieux? The greatest players don't fight. It's crazy. Now when we go to an international tournament and there's no fighting, everyone says: “What great hockey!” But there's no fighting. There are discussions about taking it out now, so we're on the right track. The NHL has to get a little wiser about where it fits in. But they've got a lot of businessmen with their own agendas as well.

Let's talk about Father Bauer. One of the great stories about him is the time at the 1964 Olympics when he was cut by a broken stick that Sweden's Carl Oberg tossed into the Canadian bench, but yet he refused to let his players go beat the guy up.

Yes. Not only that, but Father Bauer said: “It was an accident. The guy didn't throw the stick at me.” The kid said something, and he said: “It's OK.” The next day, at the Czechoslovakia-Soviet Union game, Father Bauer and Oberg sat in the stands together. Avery Brundage, the IOC president, gave Father Bauer a medal of good sportsmanship, and he also sent me one. That situation could have exploded into a terrible scene, but Father Bauer said: “What's the point? We're here to play hockey. We're here to have some fun.” I'm a Protestant, and he was a Catholic. We used to joke about how we had an ecumenical coaching staff. The big thing was that he really believed in how he did things. The purpose of the game was to have a great competition, but play within the rules and care about other people. No matter who it was, if someone got hurt, he would be over there to make sure they were OK.  He was an amazing man, and one of the finest people I've had the pleasure of knowing. I worked with him about 10 or 15 years, and my son played hockey for him at the 1980 Olympics, when Father Bauer managed the Canadian team. Anyone who ever played for him would say the same thing. He made people better.

With the national team, you became aware of Russian hockey earlier than most Canadians did. In your opinion, how good were the Russians in the 1960's compared to the team that played Canada in the 1972 Summit Series?

I think they were at their peak from about 1963 into the early 1970s. But as you said, people over here didn't know them or their methods. I became friends with Anatoli Tarasov, the great Russian coach, and he would come over and put on coaching clinics and so on.

What's one of your favourite memories?

Anatoli always wanted to coach in the National Hockey League. He said to me: “Anatoli coach National Hockey League!” I said: “Anatoli, what I'm thinking is: they don't need coaches in the NHL. They want players.” And he said: “I bring players!” Of course, no one believed he could get them out in the Soviet days. He didn't care which team he got to coach as long as he got to bring along his Russian players.

How about things that happened in international competition?

One time we were talking about Carl Brewer, who played on the national team at one of the World Championships. Everyone was saying how great Carl Brewer was as a defenceman. Anatoli Tarasov said to me: “Later in the game, we will be better against him.” I said: “What does that mean?” He said: “Carl Brewer, in the National Hockey League, skated five kilometres a game.” I said: “How do you know that?” He said: “We used to measure him. What we will do when we play Carl Brewer is give him the puck all the time in the first period. By the time, he's gotten to six or seven kilometres, we'll be beating him.” Think about it. This is when I became chairman of the Hockey Development Council in order to start bringing in the scientific aspects of what we knew about sport: coaching, training, and so on. The Russians had great institutes doing those kinds of things. One of the first guys who was really into it on this side of the Atlantic was Lloyd Percival, from Toronto. But everyone dismissed him. If you read Lloyd Percival's book, he had a lot of good sound information. But people didn't understand back then about aerobic training: “Oh, we'll just get out there and get in shape by playing.” Well, the Russians didn't do that.

When you played the Russians, they always regarded your goalie, Seth Martin, as a great difference-maker.

In our game against them at the 1964 Olympics, the Russians beat us 3-2. We'd lost to the Czechs, we'd beaten the Swedes, and frankly, we should have had the bronze medal, but that's another matter. Anyway, the Russians were almost afraid of Seth. They ran him at the beginning of the third period. We were winning 2-1 at that time, and he got knocked out of the game. So Ken Broderick had to go in. Kenny played brilliantly, but the Russians knew he wasn't Seth. They scored two goals in the third period and won.

What are your views on the state of international hockey nowadays?

Hockey internationally is a lot better today. In 1973, I took the University of British Columbia (UBC) hockey team to China, and we were there for a month. We put on coaching clinics and everything else. Most of the people there who participated were from up in the North, where the White Russians came in and so on. But now I see how so many countries are getting better step by step. Some move up, some fall off the table, but it's competitive. You know, Yugoslavia used to have a fine hockey program before the country broke up.

Looking ahead to 2010, what are your thoughts about the new Thunderbird Arena at UBC that will serve as the primary women's and secondary men's Olympic hockey venue?

It's a beautiful facility. There are 7,500 seats, and not a bad one in the place. Even the small rink next to it has great ice. There'll be more events and things that take place there than you can believe. We are very proud of it.

LUCAS AYKROYD

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