Archive for the ‘John Werket’ Tag

CIDNA Presentation and Minneapolis Winter Olympics Nuggets

You’re all invited to my next public presentation Sunday, February 25, 3:00 p.m. at Jones-Harrison Residence, 3700 Cedar Lake Avenue. My talk, which I’ve entitled “Linking Shrinking Lakes, a Deadly Railroad Crossing, and the Northwest Passage: CIDNA’s Rich Park History” is part of the CIDNA Speaker Series. CIDNA is the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association, which encompasses parts of Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun. It’s free and open to anyone, not only CIDNA residents.

I’ll talk mostly about the history of parks in that neighborhood, but as always I would be happy to entertain questions about park history throughout the city.

To relieve any apprehension of controversy and fisticuffs, my reference to a “deadly railroad crossing” has nothing to do with SWLRT, but rather goes back about 10 park superintendents. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “missing link” in the Grand Rounds parkway system. Historically that refers to the gap in the Grand Rounds from St. Anthony Parkway (and Stinson Boulevard at one time) in Northeast Minneapolis through the U of M campus back to East River Parkway. But there was once, technically, another gap in Minneapolis parkways right in the middle of the CIDNA neighborhood.

Winter Olympics and Minneapolis

To elevate this post above crass self-promotion, I’m including some wildly entertaining and illuminating Minneapolis historical info that relates to the Olympic games which many of us are watching this week.

The trials for the U.S. Ski Team for the 1924 Winter Olympics were held in Minneapolis. The ski jump at what was then Glenwood, now Theodore Wirth, Park was one of the best in the country. Olympic skiing did not include any Alpine events then. Skiing meant “ski-running” — cross country — or ski-jumping, the traditional Nordic events. (Alpine events, such as downhill and slalom, weren’t included in the Olympics until 1936.) Based on the success of the ski trials here in 1924, park superintendent Theodore Wirth speculated that Minneapolis would host the 1928 or 1932 Winter Olympics. Also based partly on that success, Minneapolis Mayor George Leach, an avid sportsman, was named the manager of the U.S. Ski Team for the 1924 Olympics in Chamonix. Mayor Leach was later the man who formally applied to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for Minneapolis to host the 1932 winter games. Instead, Lake Placid was chosen to host the Games that year. In those days the nation that hosted the Summer Olympics was also given the first chance to host the Winter Games. Because Los Angeles was hosting the 1932 Summer Olympics, the Winter Games were expected to be held in the U.S. too. Seven American cities officially applied to host the 1932 Winter Games, including Duluth and Minneapolis.

Please, Please Come!

That was far from the last time that Minneapolis put in a bid to host the Olympics. Minneapolis mounted serious efforts to host the Summer Games in 1948, 1952 and 1956. (When downhill ski events and more sledding events were added to the Olympic agenda, and ski-jumping techniques outgrew our hills, we flatlanders had no more chance to host the Winter Olympics.) Minneapolis came close in 1952, finishing tied for second — with LA — behind Helsinki in IOC voting to host the Summer Olympics. The effort to win the 1952 games was complicated by bids from Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia in addition to Minneapolis and Los Angeles. IOC representatives from the rest of the world were a bit puzzled and not impressed by the infighting among American cities to host the games.

Another major effort was made in 1988 to host the 1996 Summer Olympics. By that time the U.S. Olympic Committee would approve only one American bid for consideration by the IOC and the USOC chose Atlanta’s bid over Minneapolis’s. To the surprise of many, Atlanta’s bid won that year over the bid by Athens to host the centennial of the modern revival of the Olympic Games where they had begun.

Think how much more impressed the world would be by Minneapolis if visitors saw our summers instead of only our Super Bowl and Final Four winters!

Didn’t MacArthur Like Lutherans?

1928 was a cruel year for some Minneapolis Lutherans. When the American amateur hockey establishment was looking for a hockey team to represent the U.S. at the Olympics in St. Moritz four teams emerged as favorites: Eveleth Junior College, University of Minnesota, Harvard and Augsburg. For various reasons three of the teams withdrew from consideration, mostly due to the long time scholar-athletes would be away from classes and the travel expense. The U of M administration determined that Olympic play was outside the scope of interscholastic sports and withdrew the Gopher hockey team from consideration. Olympic athletes or their home towns were expected to pay most of the expenses of competing. The only team that agreed to play — and pay — was Augsburg and the team was duly named by the amateur hockey authorities to represent the U.S. in St. Moritz. Augsburg was coming off a championship season in the first official season of hockey competition in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

A fund drive was launched in Minneapolis to raise $4,500 to underwrite the Auggie’s expenses. After $2,000 had been raised, S.O. Severson, former athletic director at Augsburg and then principal of Franklin Junior High School in Minneapolis, pledged to cover any of the remaining amount. Augsburg was in!

Except the U.S. Olympic Committee and its president, Douglas MacArthur, had other ideas. When MacArthur looked at the Augsburg team he saw something he didn’t like and he declared that Augsburg would not go to the Olympics as the U.S. team. Augsburg’s hockey team, he declared, was not representative of American hockey. Perhaps this was the catch: Augsburg’s five starting skaters were the Hanson brothers and while the Hansons were Americans they had grown up partly in Canada. The U.S. was not represented in hockey at the 1928 Olympics by Augsburg — five Hansons and a goalie — or anyone else.

Of the 11 countries that did enter hockey teams in the 1928 Games, 10 were divided into three pools for round-robin play. The three winners of those groups were joined by Canada in a final round-robin tourney. Canada’s extraordinary bye into the final group was apparently well-deserved because in their three games in the medal round the Canadian team, the University of Toronto Grads, won by an average score of 13-0 to claim the gold medal.

Imagine this: Just prior to the Olympics, the body that governed international hockey allowed several rule changes proposed by the Canadian association. But the international authorities declined to approve two changes: defenseman still would not be allowed to kick the puck in the defensive end and goalies would not be permitted to drop to their knees to stop the puck. Imagine if goaltenders today had to stay on their skates to make a save. What a different game it would be.

There are so many more stories involving Minneapolis and the Winter Olympics that I hope to tell one day. Nearly all involve ski jumping and speed skating, but Minneapolis also had some notable figure or “fancy” skaters and cross-country skiers.

Our compatriots have not performed well in the more military-oriented Olympic shooting events. Odd isn’t it that a country like ours with such an entrenched history of gun ownership doesn’t perform better in shooting events in both Winter and Summer Games? The overlay of the Parkland school shooting last week with various shooting and skiing competitions in the South Korean snow was striking. The U.S. has more guns and more shooters, but apparently fewer marksmen and women than other countries.

Epilogue: An Augsburg athlete finally made it to the Winter Olympics 20 years after the hockey team was denied its chance. John Werket, an Augsburg student, made the U.S. Olympic speed skating team in 1948 and, after he graduated, again in 1952 and 1956. Werket also qualified for the 1960 games but withdrew because he said he couldn’t afford to take two months off work to train and compete. While Werket’s best Olympic finish was a sixth place in 1948, he won several medals in world championships from 1948 to 1952.

U of M Hockey and Minneapolis Parks

One more hockey story. The University of Minnesota made an effort to put a varsity hockey team on the ice in 1903, but hockey history really begins at the U in 1921 when varsity hockey got its true start. However — in 1914 the regents awarded $25 to a group of students that wanted to form a hockey team, although it wasn’t given varsity status. The elated student hockey promoters immediately announced their first hockey team tryouts would be held at the nearest hockey rink — in Van Cleve Park.

I hope to see you Sunday afternoon.

David C. Smith

 

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