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.

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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.

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