SPORTS AT RMC IN THE POST-WAR ERA #9
Historic: HOCKEY Part 2 – The West Point Series
By 3201 Austen (Aus) Cambon, Cadet Wing Sports Officer, RMC 1953-54
The idea of having a hockey game between the Royal Military College cadets and the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy, often referred to simply as West Point or ARMY, arose when the Commandant of RMC (1919-1925) No. 151 Lieutenant-General Sir A.C. Macdonnell visited West Point to study its curriculum. As Dr. Preston reports in his Canada’s RMC, A History of the Royal Military College of Canada: “General Douglas McArthur, then Superintendent of the academy, agreed to arrange a hockey game in which the RMC cadets won 3-0 in February 1923. RMC senior cadets then voted money from the furnishings account for a trophy for annual competition; but as the Superintendent could not promise a return game the trophy was presented to the academy as a souvenir of the first game. However, in 1924, West Point cadets came to play in Kingston, the first time they had been allowed to leave the United States in their historic uniforms. RMC won again and in fact continued to beat West Point regularly until the beginning of World War II. These annual international contests, in which a special “no penalties” rule operated, attracted some public attention and served usefully to foster good relations between members of the forces of the two countries.” The series was suspended during the War years and would resume in the post-war era.
The development of hockey as a major sport lagged behind the popularity of basketball and football in the United States. However, hockey was growing in the United States, particularly in the North-Eastern and Northern states. It was inevitable that some talented hockey players would find their way into the Corps of Cadets at West Point. Nevertheless, the contests between these two military academies remained intense and, with the unwritten, but understood, “no penalties” rule in effect, the games became excessively rough and could even be characterized as being violent in nature on more than one occasion. West Point, knowing they would not be able to beat the Canadians without taking advantage of the “no penalties” rule, adopted a sort of “football on ice” strategy. This approach worked for a time but eventually led to introducing penalties to the series. That happened in the post-war era of which we were a part.
1951 – A West Point Win
The 20th game in the series was played at West Point with RMC expected to be victorious. However, the tide was turning. West Point “showed great improvement over the previous year”. RMC kept the game close tying the game in the third period with goals by Bud White (assisted by Glyn Osler) and by Walter Scott (assisted by Dave Hargraft) but Army prevailed to win 4-2 in what was called “a very fast and hard checking game all the way through”.
1952 – An RMC Win
Playing at home in Kingston the RMC team registered “the second victory for RMC since the post-war renewal of the series and probably the most convincing” by a score of 7-4. Goal scorers for RMC were Ross Hamlin, Griffin-Beale (2), Hargraft, Beauparlant, Osler (2). An RCMP band provided music between periods. The cadets on hand to cheer their team “kept the arena in a constant uproar”.
1953 – A West Point Win
At West Point this year “the teams were evenly matched and it proved to be a superlative game of open hard-fought hockey … it was only for a few minutes at a time when the game was not a stalemate”. The USMA team scored the final goal of the game, breaking the 4-4 tie. With only three minutes of playing time remaining they were able to hold on for a 5-4 victory. This game would end four years of College hockey for Rod Hull, Tad Dowsley, Glyn Osler, Jack Sargent, and Walter Scott.
1954 – The First Penalty in Another West Point Win
The West Point weekend at RMC would prove to be historic. In the hockey match at Kingston’s Jock Harty Arena on March 6, the “no penalty” rule for the series which had been “understood” to be in place in all matches going back to the first in game in 1923 would be abolished. However, it would take two periods of rough-house hockey before the first penalty was called. The teams played their usual intense brand of hockey with too many “incidents of rough play”, infractions that would ordinarily call for penalties to be assessed. “Tempers were high and tripping, holding and a lot more dirty play made the game appear as a farce to the hockey-wise fans.” At the start of the third period the referee, Bill Reason, called the team Captains, Jerry Donahue of RMC and Hugo of West Point to centre ice and told them that if the officials were not given permission to call penalties, they would leave the ice and no longer officiate. The captains skated to back to their benches with this startling news and some hurried discussions were held with Commandant of RMC and Superintendent of West Point and the game resumed. At 10:07 of third period West Point’s goalie, Lueders, tripped Alick Marshall and Referee Reason called the first penalty ever in this historic series. Marshall scored at 11:07 but the game ended in a 5-3 victory for West Point. Also playing prominent roles in this historic game were Terry Yates, Doug Sexsmith, Ross Hamlin (scored a goal), Clint Justice (scored), and John Rutherford, among others. Quite a night to remember. It took a ref named Reason to bring reason to this historic hockey series.
The West Point Weekend – Much more than just Hockey
Over the years the much-awaited West Point Weekend, celebrated alternatively at Kingston and at West Point, grew into a group of other activities, some of them team-based and also very competitive:
Competition in pistol shooting expanded to sometimes including Canadian teams in addition to RMC, particularly when the West Point Weekend was in Kingston. Teams from the R.C.M.P., the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Kingston Police force were at times involved making the competition all the more competitive. In 1954 with an R.C.M.P. team from Ottawa participating CSC George Fanjoy was top man in scoring for RMC.
The debates between RMC and West Point were very competitive in front of attentive and supportive audiences and, of course, highly-qualified judges, in Currie Hall when the Weekend was in Kingston. And they were just as competitive when held at West Point with the topics assigned to the debaters always being especially topical and interesting.
At both institutions formal dances were held after the games much to the delight of the cadets from both sides of the border. At RMC military bands were engaged to provide music for the evening and arrangements were made to ensure that guest cadets had dates for the occasion, as also happened at West Point. Much could be written about the satisfaction provided by these activities.
As reported of the dance that was held after the game in 1954: “Receiving the 900 cadets and guests were the Hon. Brooke Claxton, Minister of National Defence, the Ambassador of the United States and Mrs. Stewart, and Commandant Brigadier D.R. Agnew and Mrs. Agnew.” It was also on this occasion that Minister Claxton, as President of the Canadian Services Colleges, announced that the long-awaited scarlet dress tunics would be coming to the Colleges.
These sporting and other activities have served to solidify the strong and lasting relationships that developed between RMC and West Point cadets over the many years of West Point Weekends in Canada and in the United States. The hockey games were certainly, at times, “heated”, in competitive terms, but the off-ice relationships that developed have remained strong and important to the on-going vital connections we have with our neighbors to the South.
Coming soon: Rifle & Pistol, Volleyball, Water Polo, and more. Feedback, Please!
3201 Austen (Aus) Cambon, RMC Class of ’54, Cadet Wing Sports Officer 1953-54