Canadian War Museum
It’s the kind of story that Olympic dreams are made of: a crew of war veterans who form a hockey team that is not expected to perform particularly well – and then goes on to bring home the gold.
The Royal Canadian Air Force Flyers hockey team may have been the underdog at the 1948 Winter Olympic Games in St Moritz, Switzerland, but in true Canuck style, the team beat all the odds.
Many of the RCAF Flyers were veterans of the Second World War. Formed at the last minute with 17 Air Force and ex-Air Force players, the team lost several exhibition games and was not expected to do well in the medal competitions.
But defying all odds, the Flyers won six games in a row before registering a scoreless tie with Czechoslovakia, the team that was heavily favoured to win.
In their final game, against the host Swiss team, 22-year-old goaltender Murray Dowey helped the Flyers to a 3–0 shutout win and a gold medal for Canada.
A jersey belonging to a member of this historic team is currently on display in the lobby of the Ottawa’s Canadian War Museum. The number 18 jersey was worn by team forward, Wing Commander Hubert Brooks, M.C., C.D. This important artefact of Canadian sporting history will be on display until March 16.
In 1942, Commander Brooks, who served with 419 Squadron, was shot down near Oldenburg, Germany, and made a prisoner of war. In 1943, he escaped to Poland where he joined the underground army. He was subsequently awarded two Polish medals.
The RCAF Flyers were elected to the Canadian Forces Sports Hall of Fame in 1971 for outstanding achievement in hockey; in 2000 the team’s gold medal win was cited as ‘the greatest moment in Canadian Forces sports history’; and the RCAF Flyers were inducted into the Canadian Olympics Hall of Fame in 2008.