That Canada won gold at the 1948 Olympics was no surprise. But, the RCAF Flyers claimed that gold by the slimmest of margins, needing goal differential to earn a superior placing to Czechoslovakia. That year, teams played a simple round-robin series of games, and the Canada-Czechoslovakia game ended in a scoreless tie, an amazing result for the Czechs who had won gold at the World Championship the previous year. This was the first European nation to develop enough talent to compete with Canada since the birth of international hockey in 1920.
One of the stars of the Czechoslovakian team that won the gold medal at the 1947 World Championships was Jaroslav Drobny, a forward who played only two major international hockey tournaments. He scored a hat trick in the decisive victory over USA which gave his country its first ever title in that tournament.
Incredibly, Drobny was also a world-class tennis player. In fact, just a few weeks after the 1948 Olympics (his only other major hockey event) he lost the French Open finals, one of tennis's grand slams, going down to Frank Parker in four sets. Imagine Saku Koivu claiming silver in Turin and then losing to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros for the championship. That puts Drobny's achievements in perspective. Drobny made up for this defeat to Parker by winning the doubles and mixed doubles championships that same year. In fact, Drobny had made it to the French Open finals two years previous, but his tennis career was hardly limited to this brief success. His started in 1938 when he played Wimbledon for the first time at age 16.
Drobny's success culminated in the late 1940s after he and Davis Cup teammate Vladimir Cernik defected while playing at a tournament in Switzerland. For the next decade, Drobny toured the tennis circuit as an Egyptian citizen. Even more amazing, Drobny had suffered an eye injury playing hockey and was forced to wear dark, protective glasses for the rest of his tennis days. Odd in appearance, perhaps, he was still able to become the best tennis player in the world.
In 1949, Drobny went to the finals at Wimbledon, losing 6-4 in the fifth set to Ted Schroeder. 'Drob' made it to the French Open finals in 1950, and then won the grand slam event in both 1951 and 1952 on the clay of Roland Garros. In 1954, he defeated the legendary Ken Rosewall at grassy Centre Court to win the hallowed Wimbledon championship by a score of 13-11, 4-6, 6-2, 9-7. Drobny was the first left-handed player to win the greatest tennis title, and the 58 games it took to decide the winner remains to this day the longest match in the history of the men's finals at Wimbledon.
As part of the IIHF's 100th anniversary celebrations, www.IIHF.com is featuring the 100 top international hockey stories from the past century (1908-2008). Starting now and continuing through the 2008 IIHF World Championships in Canada, we will bring you approximately three stories a week counting down from Number 100 to Number 11.
The Final Top 10 Countdown will be one of the highlights of the IIHF's Centennial Gala Evening in Quebec City on May 17, the day prior to the Gold Medal Game of the 2008 World Championship.
These are the criteria for inclusion on this list: First, the story has to have had a considerable influence on international hockey. Second, it has to have had either a major immediate impact or a long-lasting significance on the game. Third, although it doesn't necessarily have to be about top players, the story does have to pertain to the highest level of play, notably Olympics, World Championships, and the like. The story can be about a single moment — a goal, a great save, a referee's call — or about an historic event of longer duration — a game, series, tournament, or rule change.