And on Monday, February 27, 1933, the Boston Globe sports section ran the headline: “Garrison’s goal in overtime gives Boston Olympic hockey club team world amateur title at Prague.”
It was a title as singular now as it was then. Although the United States has grown and grown in the hockey world, won Olympic gold in 1960 and again in 1980, produced hundreds of NHLers and won many gold medals at the junior level – that IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship gold in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1933 remains the team’s only gold at this tournament.
And what’s more amazing – the U.S. hasn’t come particularly close since then either. They have won six bronze medals between 1951 and 2019 and won four silver medals, all in the 1930s, all as runner-up to Canada, the team they beat in 1933 for gold.
The “Garrison” in that headline refers to John Garrison, who scored the only goal of a ten-minute mandatory overtime against Canada, represented that year by the Toronto National Sea Fleas.
Sherman Forbes had opened the scoring for the Americans four minutes into the first period, but Tim Kerr tied the game eleven minutes later. Games consisted of three, 15-minute periods, and there were no more goals in regulation in the game played before a packed house of 12,000 fans at the Zimni Stadion on Stvanice Island in Prague.
The Canadians had been the favourites. They had won Olympic gold in 1920, 1924, 1928, and 1932, and gold at the first World Championship in 1930 as well as 1931. And they did so without losing a single game.
The two rival teams in 1933 were managed by very different personalities. The U.S. was led by Walter Brown, who went on to buy the Boston Bruins in 1951 and served as the president of the IIHF from 1954 to 1957. He was induced into both the IIHF Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame later in life.
Canada was managed by a young Harold Ballard, who led a more colourful and chequered life in hockey, most notably as the controversial owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the better part of three decades.
The U.S. entry was really the Boston Olympics hockey club, but they had a couple of New York players on the team (Jim Breckenridge and Stew Iglehart) as well, so they went by the name Massachusetts Rangers instead.
Other members of the team included goalie Gerry Cosby, who was sensational in the remaining minutes on that overtime to keep Canada off the scoresheet. He later opened a popular sporting goods store in New York. Another member was Winthrop Palmer who, like Garrison, played on the 1932 Olympic team that lost gold to Canada by a narrow margin. Palmer had attended Yale and scored nine goals in five games in 1933.
Captain Ben Langmaid was a 23-year-old defenceman from Salem. This was his only international tournament for the U.S. Jim Breckenridge was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but his family moved to New York when he was young. He developed into a fine player and attended Yale, where he and Langmaid were an impressive tandem on the blue line. Channing Hilliard was hailed by Brown as the finest skater he had ever seen. Larry Sanford had played in the 1931 World Championship in Krynica, Poland, again finishing bridesmaid to Canada after a 2-1 loss. Forwards Frank Holland and Sherman Forbes were also playing in their one and only IIHF event.
That was 88 years ago. Since then, the closest the U.S. has really come to gold was in 1950, when the World Championship was held for the first and only time in London, Great Britain. The nine competing nations were divided into three groups of three, the top two from each after a round robin advancing to a medal round. Of course, Canada and the U.S. were favourites, but the Canadians won the head-to-head game 5-0. The core of this team was the Edmonton Mercurys, who went on to win Olympic gold for Canada two years later. The American team featured several great players, notably Bud Troumbly and Buzz Johnson. They took the silver, and that is the closest they’re come to the top of the podium since.
The 2021 edition of Team USA might not have looked special on paper two weeks ago, but they have played themselves into a cohesive team with a seemingly unbeatable goalie to backstop their march to the semi-finals. They will play two games this weekend. Of that there is no doubt.
The first game will be a semi-finals contest on Saturday against, you guessed it, Canada. The only question remains is what will the second game be?