Longtime New York Rangers announcer Jack Filman was once asked the origins of the word "hockey." He replied that it was from an aboriginal word, hoghee, that meant, "it hurts!" Hockey history is full of such myths, and the purpose of this blog is to take a closer look at them and discuss the surrounding historical issues. (BTW hockey probably originates with the French word, hoquet, which referred to the hooked shape of the sticks used to play similar stick-and-ball games.)

The Mystery of the Unknown Flagbearer

If anyone needed any evidence that Canadian interest in the Olympic Games has changed over the years, one need look no further than the current excitement over the identity of the flame-lighter at tonight’s opening ceremonies – will it be Wayner or Terry’s Mom?

We already know that Canada’s flagbearer will be Clara Hughes (can she avoid “the curse”?), but it seems Canada has not been particularly adept at keeping track of the recipients of Olympic honours. Here’s a list of past flagbearers – see anyone missing?

Let’s focus on the Winter Olympics side, where there is no entry for the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen games. Why no one has noticed before may be due to the high profile of the 1936 Berlin Summer Games (Jesse Owens, Canada’s “Nazi” salute, etc.), and also the fact that Canadians prefer to forget the first games in which they lost the gold medal in hockey, a scandal in itself (sound familiar?). Nonetheless, Canada sent some impressive athletes to Garmisch, such as figure skater Montgomery Wilson (he came 4th). (Read the whole report of the Olympics here.)

The call went out last year from the COC to help identify the 1936 flagbearer, and the members of the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) exhausted several avenues, including contemporary newspaper reports. Nothing. Although some disagree, the consensus is that it was probably a hockey player, as they had carried the flag at the previous three Winter Olympiads (1924, 1928, 1932) and the next one as well (1948).

The most educated guess comes from Bob Barney, a scholar of the Olympics at The University of Western Ontario. Using techniques he developed for determining the members of the 1908 Canadian summer Olympic team (including the 1908 flagbearer, Ed Archibald – did you miss that one?), he concludes that the features of the flagbearer most closely resemble, hockey player William “Pud” Kitchen (picture above; and below?)

If you know better, contact the COC before the opening ceremonies tonight!