It’s a story many of us have never heard: the unlikely team of Canadian veterans that pulled off an Olympic miracle on ice.
But this year, the team is getting it’s due with a feature length documentary, airing today on Sportsnet.
But how did it happen?
How did a team of unknowns swoop in to capture one of the sport’s most highly prized awards?
Duguld Maudsley, executive producer of Against All Odds: The RCAF Flyers says it was a combination of chance and determination.
With the world looking to recover from the deadliest war in history, the call went out to assemble in peace for the 1948 Winter Olympics in Switzerland.
But Maudsley says Canada failed to field a team.
“Canada wasn’t going to send a team to the first Olympics after the war, the first Olympics in 12 years, because we weren’t too happy with the new amateur rules that stopped our top professional hockey players from playing.”
So in stepped the Royal Canadian Air Force, fielding a team of it’s own. Maudsley says they were complete amateurs, and many feared they would make Canada a laughingstock. That worry was compounded by some terrible performances in early exhibition play.
“They got brutalized. I don’t think we would be as tough on our Team Canada now as the media was then. They were called misfits, they were called a disgrace to the country.”
But Maudsley says when the games started, something changed.
“It took a while for them to gel as a team. But these guys had been through the air war, they had been through perhaps the most deadly part of World War II. These guys had been through the fire and they knew what it was like to face down the odds. And they were not going to be beaten.”
As a part of their Cinderella run, the team won six straight victories, racking up five shutouts in eight games along the way.
Lost in time
For such an epic tale, it’s surprising so few people know of the Flyers.
In fact, Maudsley says Against All Odds marks the first time it’s been told in one story.
“Because we all live in such a short time frame these days, we forget about them. I’m no different. I had not heard this story before. When we started to dig into it and research it, it was like ‘wow this is extraordinary.’ It’s not only a war story, it’s not only a sports story, it’s a story of the human spirit.”
The team did finally get it’s due, being inducted into the Canadian Olympics Hall of Fame in 2008.
Only three players from the squad remain alive today.
The documentary aired today at 11:11 on Sportsnet, and airs again tonight at 7pm on Sportsnet One.