The Present Past: Setting an Example

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Most Calgarians have at least some familiarity with the name Father David Bauer. For most, it’s that cold, oddly shaped rink near the University of Calgary and for others it is where one goes to gawk at would-be Olympians and World Junior hopefuls (though it seems Winsport has taken over most of those activities in recent years). There are seemingly a zillion rinks in Calgary, named after many different people from various walks of life so I am not here to lecture the reader for not knowing every fact about each arena’s namesake. 

However, one of Calgary’s arenas is named after a man who had an enormous impact on Canadian hockey as both a coach and an ambassador of the game on the international stage. Father David Bauer was responsible for coaching numerous Hall of Famers, numerous Canadian Olympic Hockey teams, and was a pretty darn good player in his own right. But it’s the story of something he didn’t do that I want to get into today after the jump.

MEET THE MAN

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Here is a photo of David from a Feb. 24th, 1964 edition of the Montreal Gazette.

It is important to note that David Bauer was an exceptionally skilled hockey player in his own right. In 1944, Bauer was a part of the Memorial Cup winning Oshawa General squad but only because he was selected from his school team, the St. Michael’s College Majors, who had been eliminated from the Memorial Cup by Oshawa.

For some reason, Oshawa was allowed to add three players to their roster for the championship series and chose David Bauer, future eight-time NHL All-Star defensemen Gus Mortson, and TED FRIGGEN LINDSAY. Yeah, the same guy the NHL re-named their MVP (as voted by the players) and general bad ass award after. It used to be named after a Nobel Peace Prize winning Prime Minister but he’s no Ted Lindsay. 

I feel that it is important to note that Bauer was no slouch among Mortson and Lindsay. In that season, Bauer, team captain for the second-straight season, scored 37 points in 25 games for the St. Michael’s Majors. It’s pretty easy to see why he captured the attention of the Generals.  

Actually, come to think of it, I kinda like this idea of the victorious team collecting the shiniest toys from their vanquished foes on their way to the finals. New idea: if a team beats you in the playoffs, they get your best player over the age of 29. Gary, page me, we’ll do lunch. So, given those additions, I suppose it should not surprise many that the Generals dismantled the Trail Smoke Eaters in four-straight games by a combined score of 40-12. Yowza.

Following that successful Memorial Cup run, Bauer enlisted in the Canadian Military in the final months of the Second World War. After the war, Bauer played a season for the University of Toronto and then decided to pursue a life of the cloth, joining the Basilian Fathers and became a priest. By all accounts, Bauer had the skills to be an NHL’er in his own right, much like his brother Bobby who became a superstar and Hockey Hall of Famer with the Boston Bruins, comprising one-third of the famed “Kraut Line” with Milt Schmidt Woody Dumart. Yeah, looking back, nickname makers of the early-to-mid twentieth century weren’t too big on the whole cultural sensitivity thing.   

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Bauer was ordained in 1953 and began his career as a coach of the St. Mike’s Majors, a team he had played for less than a decade earlier. During his time as a coach of the Majors, Bauer was enormously successful at both winning and developing elite NHL talent. 

In the 1960-61 season, Bauer’s majors won the Memorial Cup, backstopped by future Hockey Hall of Famer Gerry Cheevers (Cheevers’ backup that season was future WHA stalwart and member of the inaugural NHL season of the Edmonton Oilers, Dave Dryden). The year previous, the Majors’ leading scorer was another future Hall of Famer, Dave Keon. That’s not a bad couple of players to have around your team. 

It was after this season that Bauer turned his attention to coaching a new kind of Canadian National team. Bauer vehemently believed that young hockey players should be able to play a high level of hockey while attaining an education. To this end, Bauer organized an all-star team comprised of Canada’s best amateur players (amateur as in, not receiving payment for play, similar to the amateur status insisted by the NCAA), the balance of which were selected from Canadian university teams. 

Bauer’s amateur all-star team represented Canada at a competition that used to have very strict guidelines for the amateur status of their athletes as well: the Olympic Games. The 1964 Winter Olympics were in Innsbruck, Austria and it was at these Olympics that Bauer provided one of the most amazing examples of “how did he not lose his mind?!” that you will ever see from a coach of any sport. 

KEEPING YOUR COOL

During the second game of the tournament (in game one, Canada pummeled the Swiss 8-0), Canada played against Sweden and defeated them 3-1. However, during the game, Sweden’s Carl Göran Öberg was clearly pissed off about the way the game was going so he decided to cross-check one of the Canadian players. In doing so, Öberg broke his stick in half over a Canadian player and, in a moment of infinite wisdom, hucked the stick into the Canadian bench striking head coach Bauer in the face and nearly seriously injuring his eye. Not cool. Making matters worse, Öberg did not receive a penalty for the incident.  

At this point, imagine the emotions running through the Canadian bench. Bauer was the epitome of a ‘players coach’ and was exceptionally well-liked by those he coached. Picture yourself as one of Bauer’s players: firstly, you’re an 18-24 year old male so you probably are angry at the world to begin with, next, someone you have never met and likely cannot even effectively communicate with just hurled a wooden spear at your beloved coach. Oh yeah, and your coach happens to be a MAN OF GOD. Öberg clearly had quite a set of lingonberries on him. 

So, we all know how this goes. Players go bananas, brawl ensues, gets shown on TSN on some countdown show every Tuesday afternoon. Right? Wrong boyo. Bauer commanded his team to remain on the bench and not to engage with the Öberg. The Canadians finished the game largely without incident and after the game, off-ice officials suspended both Öberg and the referee who had not penalized him. Because Bauer had some sort of super-human patience, he even invited Öberg to watch a game with him later on that evening and reported to the Calgary Herald that Öberg was  “a fine, clean-cut boy”.

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Here is a look at the article from the Feb 1, 1964 Calgary Herald. You can read the whole story here.

Eventually, Canada would tie for silver in the tournament but at the last moment, the rules of the competition were changed to include goal differential, a fact apparently not provided at the outset of play. Canada wound up in fourth-place after goal-differential was included but that isn’t really the point of the story. The fact that Bauer was able to demonstrate that level of calm and poise in a situation where blind rage would have been completely justifiable demonstrates the calibre of coach that Bauer was. Tournament organizers recognized Bauer for his actions, giving him a special award for leadership at the end of the competition.  

Unlike the examples provided by some more modern coaches (see above. Oh and Mr. Playfair, you too), Bauer was cognizant of the fact that he was required to set an example for his players, especially given that the Canadian team was comprised of youngsters. Too often, for a myriad of different reasons,  professional coaches focus too much on building their own ‘coaching brand,’ complete with signature antics and catch phrases. 

When coaching younger players, it is important to realize that the boys and girls that coaches interact with when coaching at the highest levels of hockey have not always had the most normalized childhoods and many have had to live away from home beginning at very young ages. Coaches are often some of the most formative adult influences in a young elite athlete’s life. If the coach is known for tearing their shirts off and banging sticks against the boards, perhaps that isn’t the strongest example one can set for young people. David Bauer consistently understood that he was responsible for turning his players into good human beings just as much as he was at developing their hockey skills,     

FINDERS KEEPERS

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Thanks so much to Helena Deng from Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame for providing me with the photos in this section. She rocks, I know this personally so go say hello to her when you go visit the hall. Which you should do. Like immediately. 

Here’s the deal Sweden. If you chuck stuff at our bench, we get to keep it. That’s an Olympic fact. As a result, you can see a member of the Canadian Olympic committee holding the stick and demonstrating where it hit Bauer. One of Bauer’s many accolades was being inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1973, a hall that now resides in Calgary. As such, CSHOF is in possession of that very stick which now resides in their collections, here’s a photo of it:

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Pretty cool huh? Though look at how sharp that stick was! It is actually under sold in the media accounts of the event. That could have done some serious damage for sure. I’m pretty sure if someone threw that at John Tortorella he would lunge onto the ice and gnaw off one of their limbs. But not the Canadian team under David Bauer, no sir.  So I hope you learned your lesson, Swedish hockey players. Don’t throw pointed hockey javelins at our coaches because we will class you into oblivion.