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 are closed.