Archive for OG Shamateurism

Sarajevo ’84 : The Death Of Shamateurism (Pt 7)

Canadian center CAREY WILSON (20) is hampered from behind by his counterpart, Czechoslovak center VLADIMIR RUZICKA, as JIRI HRDINA (24) looks on at the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. Czechoslovakia, the eventual silver medalists, defeated Canada 4-0 on the final day of Group B round-robin play. Wilson, who played two years of college hockey at Dartmouth before spending the season prior to Sarajevo in Finland's elite league with IFK Helsinki, scored three goals on opening day in Canada's 4-2 defeat of the defending gold medalist United States.

Canadian center CAREY WILSON (20) is hampered from behind by his counterpart, Czechoslovak center VLADIMIR RUZICKA, as JIRI HRDINA (24) looks on at the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. Czechoslovakia, the eventual silver medalists, defeated Canada 4-0 on the final day of Group B round-robin play. Wilson, who played two years of college hockey at Dartmouth before spending the season prior to Sarajevo in Finland's elite league with IFK Helsinki, scored three goals on opening day in Canada's 4-2 defeat of the defending gold medalist United States.

====================================================================

If the player eligibility controversy surrounding the 1984 Sarajevo Games had no impact on the ice hockey tournament itself, its legacy was unmistakable.

The International Olympic Committee had made a genuine mess of the affair. Some of the Canadian players who had already signed contracts with National Hockey League clubs were allowed to participate at the Sarajevo Games, some were expelled. A few players who had already played in the NHL were tossed from the tourney, yet, a pair of NHL alumni managed to sneak through the cracks and compete somehow. The same double-standard was applied with respect to those who had played in the minor leagues as a part of NHL organizations.

Lying just beneath the surface in Sarajevo was another Pandora’s box as the domestic leagues of Western Europe were becoming more and more professional all the time. West German clubs, for example, had been importing Finnish and Swedish internationals, not to mention veteran Czechoslovaks with their government’s clearance, since the beginning of the 1970s. By the end of the decade, clubs in countries such as Austria, Italy and Switzerland, as well as West Germany, were routinely recruiting former NHL players in addition to international elite.

Had not West German international star ERICH KUEHNHACKL turned down the NHL’s New York Rangers in the late 1970s to remain at home in the Bundesliga?

Meanwhile, many top Finns crossed the border in Scandinavia to skate for Swedish clubs for obvious reasons.

The traditional definitions of professional and amateur had been stretched to the breaking point in the contemporary world at Sarajevo. The pre-tournament affair had done enough to expose the inequity of the Olympic system, if not by design. There was, in the end, only one solution available to the I. O. C. to restore a credible and competitive balance for all the nations of the ice hockey world.

The ice hockey tournament to be held in Calgary, Canada, would be open to all players.

With that, the term “shamateurism”, ceased to be of any relevant use and faded into the background of international hockey history.

Comments off

Sarajevo ’84 : The Death Of Shamateurism (Pt 6)

058144kiessling

LEFT: two West German defenders deal with a Soviet skater who has lost his stick at the Sarajevo Games in 1984. The USSR dealt with West Germany effectively, as always, 6-1.

RIGHT: a native of East Germany and the son of the DDR’s one-time national team coach who defected, UDO KIESSLING, shown here in the colors of Bundesliga club EC Koeln, became West Germany’s first NHL player when he made a single appearance for the Minnesota North Stars at the end of the 1981-82 season.  

=============================================================

For all the chaos and controversy surrounding player eligibility and the subsequent International Olympic Committee ruling at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, it is hard to make the case the affair had meaningful impact on the tournament’s medal standings in the end.

The Soviet Union steamrolled their way to a 7-0 mark and the title backstopped by the legendary VLADISLAV TRETIAK, who posted consecutive shutouts in the medal round.

Czechoslovakia, despite the defection of several national team players to the NHL including the brother act of ANTON, MARIAN and PETER STASTNY showcasing for the Quebec Nordiques, also sent a strong squad and captured the silver. 

Canada were actually permitted to keep the most valuable of the four players whose eligibility had been ‘suspect’, future NHL goaltender MARIO GOSSELIN, who, indeed, had a fine Olympics overall.

Canada’s failure to earn a medal was rooted not in disqualified players but rather in its failure to score a goal for its final three contests, including both medal round matches, after opening with four consecutive victories.

The defending Olympic champion in Sarajevo, the United States, were never going anywhere regardless of the impact one-time Detroit Red Wing BJORN SKAARE had in Norway’s shock draw with the Americans.

The U.S. were always in trouble ever since BOBBY CARPENTER, PHIL HOUSLEY and TOM BARRASSO had all jumped directly from high school to the professional National Hockey League.

West Germany pulled off a surprise 1-1 tie with Sweden in Group A round-robin play, but Tre Kronor advanced to the medal round in second place on the strength of a greater goal-differential.

Finland’s HANNU KAMPPURI was probably destined to be, as he was at the 1983 IIHF World Championships, the back-up goaltender to KARI TAKKO, although it must be said Kamppuri might have been able, as was Czechoslovakia’s JAROMIR SINDEL in Sarajevo, to come off the bench and have an impact for his country.

So, in some aspects, the I.O.C. was let off the hook at the 1984 Winter Olympics. But only sort of. The folly of both their policy and ruling at Sarajevo was abundantly clear.

It was obvious some changes were needed for the Olympic code.

Comments off

Sarajevo ’84 : The Death Of Shamateurism (Pt 5)

BJORN SKAARE was a Norwegian league all-star with IF Furuset Oslo in 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984. Skaare was the Austrian league's MVP for AC Klagenfurt in 1982. Skaare, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident the summer of 1989, is still regarded by many as the greatest player in the history of Norway hockey.

BJORN SKAARE was a Norwegian league all-star with IF Furuset Oslo in 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984. Skaare was the Austrian league's MVP for AC Klagenfurt in 1982. Skaare, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident the summer of 1989, is still regarded by many as the greatest player in the history of Norway hockey.

==========================================================

And so, on the eve of the XIV Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, six players from four nations were expelled from the rosters submitted by the twelve competing countries by the International Olympic Committee.

The decision came under immediate criticism. Ostensibly, the six players were banned on account of having had signed contracts in the past with National Hockey League clubs, a.k.a. ‘professional sports organizations’, which was strictly prohibited according to IOC regulations. Actually, the players had.

The problem was that there were others remaining on Olympic rosters with an apparent professional past. Both Norway and West Germany had players who skated NHL games while Austria featured a skater who had spent a few seasons with the top farm club of the Montreal Canadiens. And then there was the matter of the World Hockey Association, a rival league to the NHL which operated throughout most of the 1970s; Austria also had a player with considerable WHA experience.

Norway’s BJORN SKAARE skated a single game for the Detroit Red Wings in the fall of 1978. The fourth round draft pick from the Canadian junior ranks was crunched and left crippled in his debut by Colorado Rockies defenseman Barry Beck and is said to have requested an immediate return to the Kansas City Red Wings of the Central Hockey League. Skaare headed to Europe follwing his rookie pro season.

West Germany’s UDO KIESSLING also played exactly one NHL game, for the Minnesota North Stars at the end of the 1981-82 schedule. Kiessling, who had been pursued by North Stars general manager Lou Nanne on several occasions, was actually on an ‘amateur’ try-out deal. Minnesota offered Kiessling a full contract, but the defenseman wanted to return to Europe to play for his country at the 1982 IIHF World Championships in Finland and turned it down.

Austria’s KELLY GREENBANK was a second round draft pick of the powerful Montreal Canadiens in 1975. Unable to make the Montreal team that would win the Stanley Cup his first two seasons out of junior hockey, Greenbank spent his time in the Canadiens organization with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in the American Hockey League.

Meanwhile, there there was the case of defenseman RICK CUNNINGHAM of Austria. Cunningham, a one-time draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, had played 323 games over five seasons for the Ottawa Nationals, Toronto Toros and Birmingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association in the mid-1970s before continuing his career in Europe.

For the IOC at Sarajevo, the WHA stuck out like a sore thumb.

Comments off

What – World Hockey Association Not Professional?!

Winnipeg Jets left wing BOBBY HULL (9) with his two linemates from Sweden, center ULF NILSSON (14) and right wing ANDERS HEDBERG (15). The Swedish pair were reported by Sports Illustrated in 1976 to be on contracts worth $ 100,000 per year. In the summer of 1978, Hedberg and Nilsson both signed two-year contracts with the New York Rangers of the NHL worth a reported $ 2.4 million dollars combined.

Winnipeg Jets left wing BOBBY HULL (9) with his two linemates from Sweden, center ULF NILSSON (14) and right wing ANDERS HEDBERG (15). The Swedish pair were reported by Sports Illustrated in 1976 to be on contracts worth $ 100,000 per year. In the summer of 1978, Hedberg and Nilsson both signed two-year contracts with the New York Rangers of the NHL worth a reported $ 2.4 million dollars combined.

==================================================

At best, it was ridiculous. At worst, it was insulting. The notion, that is, that the old World Hockey Association was not a “professional” league.

But, by allowing defenseman RICK CUNNINGHAM, for one, to compete for Austria at Sarajevo, that is exactly what the International Olympic Committee, in effect, stated with their ruling on the eve of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games concerning player eligibility.

In fact, the WHA ws specifically launched in the early 1970s to compete directly in the business marketplace with the twelve-team National Hockey League, the one and only ice hockey circuit on the planet classified by the IOC as a professional sports organization. The WHA fundamentally believed the ‘reserve clause’ in NHL players’ contracts to be invalid and immediately began signing skaters whose active terms had expired. Philadelphia Flyers goalie BERNIE PARENT was the first prominent NHL player to jump to the new league and was soon joined by many others.

The Boston Bruins lost goalie GERRY CHEEVERS, defenseman TED GREEN as well as forwards JOHN MCKENZIE, GARRY PETERS and DEREK SANDERSON off their ’72 Stanley Cup playoff champion roster to the upstart WHA. All-Star defenseman J. C. TREMBLAY departed the famed Montreal Canadiens in favor of the fledgling Quebec Nordiques. By the time the new league dropped its first puck in the fall of 1972, the 12 WHA teams had taken on 67 former NHL players.

The reason for the mass exodus of NHL players to WHA clubs was, of course, money.

The Winnipeg Jets gave aging Chicago Black Hawks goalscorer supreme BOBBY HULL a ten-year contract worth a reported $ 2.7 million dollars to become both player and coach for the new WHA team. With the highly-publicized signing bonus that was part of the deal, Hull became the first hockey player to earn one million dollars in a single season. Hull was not the only one hopping on-board for a hefty paycheck, however.

Sanderson’s five-year deal with the Philadelphia Blazers was reported to be worth the then-staggering amount of $ 2,650,000. For the flamboyant Sanderson, who was not even Boston’s first line center, this salary was said to be the richest for any athlete in the world at the time, international soccer superstar PELE of World Cup champion Brazil included. Sanderson, hampered by injuries and other matters, lasted just eight games in the WHA but did collect a one million dollar buyout of his contract.

All players benefited financially from the arrival of the WHA. The average NHL salary for the 1971-72 campaign was $ 22,000. Competition saw the average pay for players skating in both leagues skyrocket. In short order, six-figure salaries for a season soon became commonplace.

Comments off

Sarajevo ’84 : The Death Of Shamateurism (Pt 4)

JIM CORSI, who also played for the World Hockey Associaton's Quebec Nordiques, in goal for the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers.

JIM CORSI, who also played for the World Hockey Associaton's Quebec Nordiques, in goal for the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers.

=========================================

The International Olympic Committee’s response to the formal protest filed by Finland over Canada’s inclusion of four “professional” players on the eve of the XIVth Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo was swift and final, if nothing else.

Although the controversy centered on ineligible players initially involved just Canada and the United States, the IOC’s verdict ultimately saw six players from no fewer than four countries informed their participation at the Sarajevo Games would not be possible:

  • AUSTRIA —- 30 – ctr – Greg HOLST
  • CANADA —- 22 – def - Don DIETRICH 
  • CANADA —- 20 – ctr – Mark MORRISON
  • FINLAND —- 26 – gk – Hannu KAMPPURI
  • ITALY ——– 29 – gk – Jim CORSI
  • ITALY ——– 32 – ctr – Rich BRAGNALO

If Italy were, perhaps, hardest hit by the IOC’s decision, at least it was Bragnalo who was the most blatant of the offenders with 145 games played for the forbidden National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals over four seasons in the late 1970s. And, Corsi did keep goal on 26 occasions for Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers the previous Olympic hockey season, 1979-80. It was, of course, Bragnalo with a goal and Corsi who stopped 50 shots the day Italy held Gretzky and Canada to a 3-3 draw at the 1982 IIHF World Championships in Finland.

Austria’s Holst engaged a total of 11 times over three seasons for the New York Rangers in the late 70s. Canada’s Morrison also appeared on Broadway for the Blueshirts having come up from junior hockey for a nine-game stint as an 18-year-old injury replacement during the 1981-82 season.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Dietrich had never skated so much as a single game in the NHL having spent his two-plus seasons following junior hockey with New Brunswick and Springfield in the American Hockey League for the Chicago Black Hawks. Finland’s Kamppuri had never guarded an NHL goal, having spent his lone year (79-80) with the Edmonton Oilers organization in the minors, mostly with the Houston Apollos of the Central Hockey League where he was, for a spell, a teammate of Corsi.

Olympic justice in Sarajevo for the latter two players, if not Morrison, seemed a bit harsh.

The IOC’s ruling, in reality however, only served to fan the flames of controversy. The decision was fundamentally flawed on a couple of accounts. And, to make matters worse, it was clearly evident that the faulty judgement had not even been applied equitably across the board.

For starters, only two of the four Canadian players known to have signed forbidden NHL contracts were actually banned from the Olympics. This surprised a great many, including Canada’s number one goaltender MARIO GOSSELIN. The Quebec Nordiques’ 1982 third round draft pick, one of the four players under scrutiny, admitted to the press corp following the Canucks’ opening game versus the United States that he had been convinced he would be ruled ineligible to play.

And that was just the beginning.

Comments off

Sarajevo ’84 : The Death Of Shamateurism (Pt 3)

United States right wing JOHN HARRINGTON (28) reacts to third period wrist shot of MIKE ERUZIONE (not pictured), which has beaten USSR goalie VLADIMIR MYSHKIN for what will be the winning goal of the Americans' famous 4-3 upset of the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. Four years later at Sarajevo, Harrington was rumored to be involved in the controversy concerning player eligibility.

United States right wing JOHN HARRINGTON (28) reacts to third period wrist shot of MIKE ERUZIONE (not pictured), which has beaten USSR goalie VLADIMIR MYSHKIN for what will be the winning goal of the Americans' famous 4-3 upset of the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. Four years later at Sarajevo, Harrington was rumored to be involved in the controversy concerning player eligibility.

=========================================================================

Curiously, an eligibility conflict had erupted not involving any any of the Eastern European teams and their “amateur” players just a few days prior to the start of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.

Canada and the United States, opponents on opening day of the ice hockey event, were engaged in a very public spat centered around professional players. It was rumored that the United States planned to formally protest the inclusion of four Canadian players who were alleged to have signed National Hockey League contracts. A prominent Canadian official, meanwhile, had insinuated that the Americans had “illegally” won the gold medal at Lake Placid in 1980.

Just two days before the Canada – United States match, the head of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, MURRAY COSTELLO, raised the bar by suggesting Canada could withdraw from the XIVth Winter Games if four players are ruled out on account of the American protest. Costello also stated what’s more, the United States, itself, had as many as four players on their own roster who were in violation of eligibility regulations. Costello did not name the Americans he was referring to, but it was reported that two were, in fact, returning Lake Placid veterans JOHN HARRINGTON and PHIL VERCHOTA.

“Nobody on our team signed a pro contract,” United States Olympic coach LOU VAIRO said at a press conference shortly after he and his charges had arrived by train via Vienna. “We have no ineligible players according to the rules.”

A spotlight was shining on four Canadians — DON DIETRICH, MARIO GOSSELIN, MARK MORRISON, DAN WOOD — all of whom actually put pen to the prohibited National Hockey League paper. A step further, Morrison had skated in no fewer than nine NHL games for the New York Rangers during the 1981-82 season. As far as the Canadians were concerned, however, all of this mattered none. The Canucks operated under NHL rules, which stated any player with less than 10 games played was an amateur, and claimed they had written authorization accepting this interpretation from the International Ice Hockey Federation.

And so, with a measure of confidence, the Canadians submitted their roster including the known “professionals” at the deadline to tournament officials. The United States never did formally challenge this. It was the Finns who, in the end, raised the fuss and filed the formal protest.

The International Olympic Committee, who, of course, presided over the Winter Games, took up the case with far-reaching and long-lasting consequences yet to come. This was the same I.O.C. who had made some strange decisions in the past, the concept of of a “unified” Germany at the Olympics from 1956 thru 1964 certainly comes to mind readily. And so, true to historical form, the I.O.C. at Sarajevo in 1984 did not disappoint those seeking a confusing conclusion.

Comments off

Sarajevo ’84 : The Death Of Shamateurism (Pt 2)

United States defenseman MIKE RAMSEY (5) introduces the butt of his stick to the chin of legendary superstar center VLADIMIR PETROV (16) of the Soviet Union. Another of the USSR's all-time icons, right wing and captain BORIS MIKHAILOV (K, upper left) asks the referee KARL-GUSTAV KAISLA of Finland for a favorable call as Soviet defenseman VALERY VASILIEV (6) arrives. United States left wing PHIL VERCHOTA (27) maintains vicinity for his college teammate at the University of Minnesota.

United States defenseman MIKE RAMSEY (5) introduces the butt of his stick to the chin of legendary superstar center VLADIMIR PETROV (16) of the Soviet Union. Another of the USSR's all-time icons, right wing and captain BORIS MIKHAILOV (K, upper left) asks the referee KARL-GUSTAV KAISLA of Finland for a favorable call as Soviet defenseman VALERY VASILIEV (6) arrives. United States left wing PHIL VERCHOTA (27) maintains vicinity for his college teammate at the University of Minnesota.

========================================================

THE DEATH OF SHAMATEURISM (cont)

No, it was not a colossal philosophical clash between East and West that ultimately brought the curtain down on shamateurism in the wake of the scandal that shook the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.

It was, indeed, a dispute between North American neighbors — Canada and the United States — that brought matters to a boil.

Canada and the defending champion United States were, of course, scheduled to face-off the very first day of the ice hockey competition. In the days leading up to the start of the Games, a war of words was escalating in the newspapers. Involved was none other than MIKE ERUZIONE, the captain of the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.

“It’s almost like he’s calling me a liar and that bothers me,” Eruzione stated in an Associated Press story published in The New York Times (Sat, Feb 4, 1984).

Eruzione was referring to earlier statements made by Canada’s chief international hockey negotiator, the notorious ALAN EAGLESON. Eagleson had suggested that the United States may have used ineligible players at the Lake Placid Games. Eruzione, who played two seasons of professional hockey in the minor leagues prior to his appearance for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, was one of the players whose participation had been called into question by Eagleson.

As had that of American gold medalist KEN MORROW, who Eagleson claimed had been ineligible to play at Lake Placid as a result a verbal contract agreement the defenseman had reached with the New York Islanders prior to the 1980 Olympics.

In his public statements, Eagleson had all but promised that Canada would formally protest the amateur status of both Eruzione and Morrow if the United States went ahead and lodged an official complaint concerning the Canadian roster submitted for the Sarajevo tournament.

Eruzione, who was in the Balkans for the ’84 Winter Games to work as a television commentator for hockey broadcasts by ABC Sports, expressed extreme pessimism that the United States’ triumph would be overturned by the International Olympic Committee.

==============================================================

Mike Eruzione played two seasons for the Toledo Goaldiggers of the International Hockey League after finishing his career at Boston University the spring of 1977.

His final season in the minors, Eruzione, who had never been drafted by a National Hockey League club, was ‘promoted’ to the American Hockey League for a look-see by — the Philadelphia Firebirds (6 games, 0 goals 0 assists).

Eruzione was taken in the 1974 World Hockey Association draft, in the second round (# 28 overall) by the New England Whalers. Despite his reasonably high draft status, however, the Whalers never displayed any serious interest in the native of Winthrop, Massachusetts, and never so much even had the winger in training camp for a try-out.

Comments off

Morrow Had It Made

02F

===================================================================

Just before the start of the 1984 Sarajevo Games, Canadian hockey official ALAN EAGLESON had insinuated that the United States had used ineligible players to win the gold medal at Lake Placid four years earlier. The ice hockey tournament at the Winter Olympics was supposed to be restricted to “amateur” players only. But, Eagleson charged, United States defenseman KEN MORROW had entered into a verbal agreement with the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League ahead of the 1980 Games and was, therefore, ineligible to participate as a professional.

The ironic part of this whole affair was that, indeed, Morrow HAD indulged in negotiations with the Islanders before signing on to skate the 1979-80 season for the U.S. National team that would be competing at Lake Placid.

Morrow, a standout at Bowling Green University, had played his four years and collected his degree as the real world beckoned back in the summer of 1979. The 6’4″ 210 lbs defenseman had dealt with the passing of his father his freshman season and the Morrow family could certainly have benefited immediately from an NHL signing bonus and playing contract. The Islanders, with a fourth round selection (# 68 overall), had made Morrow the earliest selected college player, Canadian or otherwise, in club history and were known to be ready to come to terms with the native of Davison, Michigan.

But then again, the coach of the United States Olympic team, HERB BROOKS, was desperate for the bearded behemouth to bolster his blueline at Lake Placid.

So it was ART KAMINSKY, the defenseman’s agent, who put together the master plan then. First, Kaminsky was able to negotiate with the Islanders for a mutually agreeable verbal contract that would be signed immediately following the Olympics. Next, Kaminsky came up with the idea of an insurance policy to cover an NHL signing bonus and two years’ salary to cover any concern regarding injury. Finally, to bring everything all together, Brooks and Kaminsky were able to convince the United States Olympic Committee to foot the bill for the insurance premiums despite initial reluctance.

“You’ve got your contract,” Kaminsky told Morrow. “You’ve got your insurance. There’s no reason not to play.” — (ONE GOAL, John Powers and Arthur C. Kaminsky, Harper & Row Publishers)

Comments off

Sarajevo ’84 : The Death Of Shamateurism (Pt 1)

MIKE RAMSEY of the UNITED STATES delivers a devastating blow along the boards to legendary superstar VALERY KHARLAMOV (17) of the SOVIET UNION during the famous medal round match in Lake Placid, New York, at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. The USA upset the USSR, 4-3, and went on to garner the gold medal.

MIKE RAMSEY of the UNITED STATES delivers a devastating blow along the boards to legendary superstar VALERY KHARLAMOV (17) of the SOVIET UNION during the famous medal round match in Lake Placid, New York, at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. The USA upset the USSR, 4-3, and went on to garner the gold medal.

===========================================================================

The XXIst Winter Olympic Games to be held in Vancouver this February will mark the fourth time the National Hockey League has shut down to allow its players to participate in the competition. This will only be the second time ever that the Winter Olympics will have been hosted by the country universally credited with being the historical home of the sport of ice hockey. Oddly enough, the last time the Olympics were held in Canada (at Calgary, Alberta, in 1988) also coincided with the occasion that “professionals” were, for the very first time ever, welcome at the Winter Games.

As it was, with the world watching, proceedings four years earlier on the eve of the Games at Sarajevo in what was, at the time, Yugoslavia had made the policy of “amateurs” only clearly unsustainable.

Ironically enough, this was the same Balkan city which had been the scene of a flashpoint to another great upheaval in history. The assasination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife kicked off the chain of events that brought about the First World War. By the conclusion of that conflict, two historical empires, that of Austria-Hungary and Russia, ceased to exist, as did the institution of the Czar for the latter.

Exactly seventy years later, controversy once again stepped to the forefront in Sarajevo with far-reaching consequences.

Ever since the modern revival of Olympic competition, the International Olympic Committee had enforced its policy of amateurs only. Despised pay-for-play whores, past or present, were strictly prohibited. Of course, the arrival of the state-sponsored programs of the Warsaw Pact nations presented a double-standard beneath the surface.

Eastern bloc hockey players competed domestically for clubs that were run or controlled by state institutions, such as the army or perhaps a trade union. Accordingly, the players would have their occupations listed as solider or physical education instructor. In reality, the players spent all their time practicing for their club teams. Meanwhile, as top sportsmen, international hockey players enjoyed the same privileges and trappings of the elites of their contemporary communist societies.

This particular concept of “amateur” prevailing in Eastern Europe was, however, accepted by the IOC officials. As was the idea that the hockey players competing in the elite leagues of Western Europe were only part-timers earning part-time-type money. This despite the fact it was known that the West German international ERICH KUEHNHACKL, the 6’6″ giant who would ultimately lead the ’84 Sarajevo Games in scoring (8 go 6 as, 14 pts), had turned down an offer to skate in the National Hockey League for the New York Rangers in the late 1970s.

It was rumored that the Rangers’ contract proposal did not exceed what the Czechoslovak-born scoring star was earning exercising his skills for EC Koeln in the Bundesliga.

Basically, it was the National Hockey League clubs operating in North America who were alone and always defined by the IOC as a “professional sports organization.” All Canada, and, to a lesser extent, the United States, could do was roll their eyes and attempt to comply with the IOC regulations as best they could. The Canadians, frustrated and feeling the effects of significant NHL expansion from the late 1960s onwards, did not even bother to a team at either the 1972 Sapporo or 1976 Innsbruck Winter Games.

But it was not a philosophical clash between East and West that brought about a great storm at Sarajevo in early February, 1984. The force that finally opened the door once and for all to every player in the world, National Hockey League included. It was, rather, a backyard North and South affair.

Comments off