Host City: Antwerpen, Belgium
Venue(s): Ice Palace Antwerp, Antwerpen
Date Started: April 23, 1920
Date Finished: April 29, 1920
Format: Bergvall System, with winners progressing to next round. All teams losing to the gold medallist played each other for second place, and all teams losing to the silver medallist place for third place.
The 1920 Olympic Games began with ice hockey games, commencing with the [Sweden-Belgium game] on 23 April. There was no opening ceremony of the Olympics held prior to the game - that was to come later. This was the first time ice hockey was conducted at the Olympic Games and it has been held continuously since; however, at the Olympic Winter Games only.
This was also the only time that Olympic ice hockey was contested by seven-man teams. The seventh position was that of rover, in addition to three forwards, two defensemen, and the goalie. The tournament was conducted indoors at [Le Palais de Glace d'Anvers], situated at the Rue de la Santé, near the Botanic Gardens in Antwerp. The rink measured only 18×56 metres (59 by 185 feet), which was quite narrow by Canadian standards and was made to appear even smaller by the 14 skaters on the ice. Finally, the games consisted of two 20-minute halves, unlike the Canadian game of three 20-minute periods.
Canada, where ice hockey is the national game, was the class of the tournament, being challenged only by the United States team. The [Winnipeg Falcons], who had won the 1920 Allan Cup, symbolic of amateur hockey supremacy in Canada, represented Canada. The Falcons were formed as a team in 1908, joining two previous teams, the Viking and Athletic Clubs of Winnipeg. They disbanded after one year, but reorganized in 1912. Although the team suspended play during the war, the Falcons resumed competition in 1919, winning the championship of Western Canada. They won the Allan Cup in 1920 by defeating the [University of Toronto Varsities], 8-3 and 3-2. Of the eight )Canadian) players, seven were actually of Icelandic origin. Only goalie [Wally Byron] was not. The team nickname, Falcons, was chosen because the Falcon is a symbol of Iceland.
The United States was represented by 11 players who were members of three clubs – the [St. Paul Athletic Club], the [Pittsburgh Athletic Association], and the [Boston Athletic Association]. At least four members of the American team were born and raised in Canada – the brothers [Joe] and [Larry McCormick], [Frank Synnott], and [Herbert Drury]. They had been playing for American clubs for some time and, although they were all Canadian citizens, it is not known if they had also attained American citizenship by 1920. It mattered little for Olympic eligibility rules were much more lax in that era. In a training match on 23 March, the U.S. team played the Winnipeg Falcons, losing 3-2 to the Canadians.
In the first game, Sweden against Belgium, it was noted by one sportswriter that "the Swedes were rough even by Canadian standards." The next day, Canada and the U.S. made their débuts, winning easily. In the [Canadian 15-0 victory over Czechoslovakia], Czechoslovakia did not get a single shot on goal.
In the semi-finals, [Sweden defeated France 4-0]. The big match was the other semi-final between the [United States and Canada]. The referee was to be Garon, a Canadian who was an officer with the American Red Cross. The Canadians demanded the right to replace him if his work was unsatisfactory and he refused to referee under that condition, being replaced by M. Catella, a Frenchman. The game was scoreless at halftime, but Canada scored two second-half goals to win 2-0. In the finals, [Canada defeated Sweden quite easily, 12-1].
Second- and third-place were decided by the Bergvall System (termed the Vancouver System in Canada) in which all teams losing to the champion, Canada, played off in a single-elimination tournament to decide the runner-up. When that was finished, all teams that had lost to either the first or second-place team then contested another single-elimination tournament for third place. The [United States easily defeated Czechoslovakia, 16-0], for second place, while [Czechoslovakia nipped Sweden 1-0], to earn the bronze medal. Sweden was decidedly hampered by the draw of the Bergvall system, being forced to play games on five consecutive days.