Ice Cold War

Wherever hockey and politics intersect, we’re there, crashing the net. We’ve looked at President Obama’s failure to attend a single Caps game at Verizon, a mere 9 blocks from the White House, and we heartily support the RMNB “Barack the Red” campaign.

Maybe Obama’s debating skills could use a grinder’s grit and tenacity. “Mr. President, meet Matt Hendricks.” The lockout has screwed any chances of that happening anytime soon, and honestly, with GOP gunslinger Frank Luntz on the payroll of Gary Bettman, and by proxy Ted Leonsis, the odds of Barack taking in a Caps game are somewhere between slim and fat. And fat just left town on a northbound for Toronto.

We’ve given Mitt Romney the hockey side-eye too, noting his faux Bruins fandom and his foot-dragging as Massachusetts governor to renovate a Boston area community rink. There was also his shameless plug of the team’s playoff game during a June 2011 GOP candidate debate in New Hampshire. Pander bear, meet pander Bruin. We’ve even covered the annual Lawmaker vs. Lobbyist charity game. Boy, if there was ever a tilt in which we hoped both teams could lose…

We just came across a delicious politics and pucks story, this one from the history books. Long before the 1980 Miracle on Ice or the 1974 Summit Series, there was plenty of Cold War stick sabre rattling involving hockey games. We learned with the recent release of JFK’s Oval Office tapes, in a book entitled “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy,” the president, just 8 months away from Dallas, was focused on hockey. In particular, JFK was distressed over the dismal performance of the U.S. men’s team in the 1963 World Ice Hockey Championships, held that year in Stockholm.

Kennedy needed advice. He knew sailing and he knew touch football from those storied Hyannis Port games, but when it came to hockey, Jack didn’t know jack. From the Oval on March 13, 1963, JFK lobbed in a phone call to David Hackett, Executive Director of the President’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime. Hockey and juvenile delinquents, it makes perfect sense, right? Well, not exactly. Hackett was also a close friend of the Kennedy clan, a very close friend of Bobby’s actually; they were classmates at Milton Academy, a Boston prep school in the early 1940s. And Hackett was a hockey player at Milton (football and baseball too). He was a very good hockey player.

Hackett was a star for the Milton Mustangs and an even better player at McGill University after serving in WWII as an Army paratrooper. In a Marlet game in the late 1940s, he scored 3 goals in 48 seconds. (We don’t have that game’s box score, but after that fusillade, we believe McGill’s opponents pulled their netminder, Dwayne Roloson). In the book, the authors set up the phone call:

“No theater of Cold War competition was too small for Kennedy to take an interest in – for example, the absorbing athletic rivalry that pitted the United States against the Soviet Union, and the many proxy contests in which they and their allies participated. At the very least, it was essential to perform to the utmost of one’s ability; to win, if possible, but if not, to at least show well. Unfortunately, that presidential directive did not reach the U.S. men’s hockey team, who suffered a series of ignominious defeats in the spring on 1963.”

JFK: Dave?

David Hackett: Yeah.

JFK: How are you?

Hackett: How are you?

JFK: Dave, I’ve noticed in the paper this morning where the Swedish team beat the American hockey team, 17-2.

Hackett: Yeah, I saw that.

JFK: Christ, who are we sending over there? Girls?

Hackett: They haven’t won a game.

JFK: I know it. I mean, who got them up?

Hackett: I don’t know. I can check into it.

JFK: God, we’ve got some pretty good hockey players, haven’t we?

Hackett: Yeah. Well, I think. Yeah.

JFK: I suppose they are all playing on their college teams, are they, or something? I’d like to find out whether it was done… under what… who sort of sponsors it and what kind of players they’ve got, and I think it’s a disgrace to have a team that’s 17-2. That’s about as bad as I’ve ever heard it, isn’t it?

Hackett: And they have been beaten by everybody by a score almost equal to that.

JFK: So obviously, we shouldn’t send a team unless we send a good one. Will you find out about that and let me know?

Hackett: I’ll find out about it and let you know.

Yeah. Kennedy called the U.S. men’s team a bunch of girls. Not the Judith Exner, Marilyn Monroe or Angie Dickenson type of girls that Jack was used to… caucusing with. Anyhow, times have changed and that’s exactly the sort of language that will get some angry tweets from the gays these days.

What happened to the U.S. squad in 1963 and where did Hackett next lace them up?

The U.S. team wasn’t a bunch of girls. Girls would’ve played better. They finished dead last among the 8 teams vying in the Group A tournament, falling to Finland 11-3 on March 8, 10-1 to the Czechs on March 9, and 10-4 to Canada on the 11th. But it was the 17-2 drubbing at the sticks of host country Sweden that really grinded Jack’s gears.

Who the hell knows what Hackett did or who exactly grabbed their sacks on the U.S. team, but in the next tilt on March 14, the U.S. bested the West Germans 8-4. Then it was all downhill – the Soviet hooligans clobbered us 9-0 on March 15 and in the final game on March 17, the good guys managed to tie the East Germans 3-3. The Soviets took the championship, their third, and then went on to win another 8 straight. Screw them, we got to the moon first and ultimately broke their backs. Let freedom ring, suckers! (But please take care of Ovi, Nicky, Sasha and Geno).

Hackett’s hockey career didn’t end at McGill; he was selected for both the 1948 and 1952 U.S. Olympic Hockey teams. The ’48 team was DQ’d in a credentialing controversy and a broken ankle kept him from playing on the silver medal ’52 team.

After those amateur ranks disappointments, Hackett turned pro and went on to play for the Baltimore Clippers in the old Eastern Hockey League, lacing them up for one season in 1954-1955. There’s some not-so-fancy stats online about the Clippers and we find that he was signed to the team on October 11, 1954 (bringing their roster total up to four), and exactly three weeks later in a preseason game, he tallied a hattie in a 7-5 win over the Washington Lions.

The Clippers went on to finish slightly below .500 that season, in 47 games they racked up 22 wins, 23 losses and 2 ties. Hackett ended the season playing only 12 games, but he was productive on the ice with 5G, 4A and 18PIM. The Lions proved to be the better team that season and finished first in the standings followed by the New Haven Blades. The Clippers were third followed by the Clinton Comets and the Worcester Warriors. Old time hockey! Like Eddie Shore and David Hackett!

Hackett would soon enter politics, coming to DC in 1959 to work on his friend’s presidential campaign. At the 1960 DNC convention in Los Angeles, Hackett ran the “boiler room,” tracking the delegates, and then worked on Bobby’s presidential campaign too, right up until the end, also in Los Angeles.

Worse than Bettman v. Fehr

With two weeks to go until Election Day, we’ve entered the sillier season when shameless politicos get even more shameless by trying to play up their sporting life cred to Joe Meatball and Sally Housecoat (actual registered voters in Ohio). Both Obama and Romney commented on RGIII for the Fox Sports’ Redskins pregame show Sunday, and Mitt was playing touch football with the press corps. How very Kennedyesque!

Who wins on November 6 seems less important than the pitched battle between Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr, two other shameless clowns with bad PR problems that also aren’t trusted at all by Americans (or Canadians). Our only concern about a Romney win is his presidential appointments. The Supreme Court? Nope. We just don’t want to see him name Tim Thomas to head the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. That chills us to the bone. Mr. President, there’s still time to give Hendy a call.

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About Craig

Proudly serving gay hockey fans and players since 2010
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Washington Capitals and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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