In the early days of international hockey, Canada was all but invincible. It won the first four Olympic tournaments (1920, ‘24, ‘28, ‘32) and the first two International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships (1930 and ‘31) without losing a single game.
When looking closely at the scores, one could see that Canada was occasionally vulnerable. In the 1931 World Championship, Sweden skated away with a 0-0 tie against the eventual champion Canadians. The following year in the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, Canada needed overtime in both games against the USA to secure the gold medal. The next year was different.
In the 1933 world tournament in Prague, Czechoslovakia, the USA and Canada once again faced each other in the gold medal game on February 26 at the beautiful Zimni Stadion at Stvanice. Both teams had coaches who later became high-profile men in the professional leagues back in North America.
The Canadian entry, the Toronto National Sea Fleas, was led by Harold Ballard, later known as the controversial owner of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Americans, represented in Prague by the Massachusetts Rangers, had Walter Brown as their coach. Brown later became the president of the NHL’s Boston Bruins and co-owner of the NBA’s Boston Celtics with close friend and RI Reds owner, Louis A.R. Pieri. He was elected president of the IIHF in 1954 and an inductee to both the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto as well as to the IIHF Hall of Fame later in the 20th century.
The USA team was made up almost entirely of college students led by goaltender Gerry Cosby. He would later open his famous hockey store at Madison Square Garden in New York, providing uniforms for many NHL & AHL teams, including our RI Reds, PC Friars, Brown Bears and a number of local high school teams. Cosby would also outfit many with their state championship jackets.
Cosby posted 4 shutouts to set up the gold medal game, which was tied 1-1 at the end of 45 minutes of regulation play. Six minutes into the 10-minute “non sudden-death” overtime, the USA scored the go-ahead tally. Cosby stoned Canada the rest of the way and the team held on for an historic 2-1 win. In 1997, Cosby was inducted posthumously into The International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame.
Amazingly, as big as the USA success was back in 1933, only one American men’s team has been able to repeat World Championship gold since. Their second and last IIHF World Championship was won in Squaw Valley in 1960 – 58 long years ago.