"We will play to win,
but not at any price."

    Father David Bauer


Father David Bauer (1924-1988),
HHOF in Toronto (1989, builders category),
IIHF Hall of Fame (1997, builders category).
Career Highlights:
- Played LW for St. Michaels College 1941-43 and Oshawa Generals 1943-44;
- Won the Memorial Cup 1944 as a player with Oshawa and in 1961 as a coach with St. Mike's College;
- Began building a National Team in 1961
- Coached Canada in the 1964 Olympics;
- GM for Canada in the Olympics'68 and the WCs in '65, '66, '67 and '69;
- Won Olympic bronze (GM) in '68 and WC bronze in '66 and '67 (GM)
- Managing Director of Team Canada at the Olympics'80
- Named as Vice-President of Hockey Canada and chairman of the Olympic Program in 1981;
- The Father Bauer Arena in Calgary, Alberta has been named as recognition of Father David Bauer

Father David Bauer and the Canadian National Team
by Craig Wallace, Guest Writer

When the history of Canadian teams in International Hockey is discussed one name that is always at the forefront of any such discussion is that of Father David BAUER.

David Bauer (brother of Boston Bruin star Bobby Bauer) was perhaps the finest junior hockey player in Canada in the late 40’s and had a bright future ahead of him in the National Hockey League (NHL). Before he could enter the professional hockey ranks he stunned the hockey establishment by accepting a calling into the Roman Catholic priesthood. He was ordained in the Basilian order and began teaching at St. Michael’s College in Toronto. He still had a love for hockey and coached the junior A St. Michaels Majors, winning one Memorial Cup. While coaching St. Mikes’ Father Dave clearly stood out from other junior coaches as Scott Young in his 1976 book "War On Ice" describes:

"While most junior coaches never let education get in the way of hockey if they could avoid it, Father Bauer carried five or six extra players so that any in need of extra study could skip a game or two. He also had the quaint (for hockey) notion that a player could be rugged without being dirty, and that mental discipline and development of the mind were as important as physical development and hockey skills. Even more galling to old-style hockey men was that much of the time his teams could beat their teams."

In 1962 Father Dave transferred to St. Marks College at the University of British Columbia. Along with his teaching duties there, he took over the head coaching position of the struggling varsity hockey team. In his first year of coaching the Thunderbirds he took them to the CIAU final where they lost a bitterly contested final to McMaster University.

Father Dave then made headlines around Canada with his proposal to create a "National Hockey Team" to represent Canada internationally with him as head coach. At this time the World Hockey Championships and Olympics were open only to amateur players. This meant Canada’s best players, their NHL professionals, were not allowed to compete in these events. Traditionally Senior A or Senior B "club" teams represented Canada. Up until 1954 these teams were able to easily defeat most opponents they faced in International competition. This changed however in 1954 when the Soviet Union entered the World Championships for the first time. They met Canada’s representative, a Senior B team known as the East York Lyndhurts for the Gold Medal. The result, a 7-2 thrashing of the Lyndhursts, sent shock waves through Canada. After that Canada sent only their best Senior A team to represent them but by 1963, these teams were being beaten on a regular basis by the Soviet, and Czechoslovakian National teams. Clearly Canada had to do something different. Father Dave proposed that the finest Canadian junior and college players be given the task of representing their nation. While they could not be paid (they had to be amateur to compete internationally) he said "let’s offer these players room, board, and tuition at the University of British Columbia". They would be given the opportunity to get a free education, and while there they would form the Canadian National Team, which would become known as the "Nats."

Father Dave had always been disturbed by the prevailing opinion that a player had to sacrifice their education to advance in hockey. At this time players were encouraged by the hockey establishment to quit school so they could focus only on hockey. He felt a young person should be able to get a top education and still play high quality hockey. He was also deeply concerned about the image Canadian hockey players around the world. Many of the Senior A teams Canada had sent had used brutal, and often violent tactics to win. The European press and fans routinely referred to Canadian players as "thugs" and "animals". Father Dave was determined to change that. The first thing he did was to be very selective in his recruiting for the team. Scott Young described what Father Bauer looked for.

"Only agile, fast players could stay with the remarkable skaters the European teams were turning out. He wanted hockey skills, of course, but also the kind of player who would be prepared to discipline himself more than he’d ever been asked to do in Canadian hockey. He felt, accurately, that the days when Canadian teams could take beaucoup penalties, play short-handed most of the game, and still win, were long gone."

In his first practice with the "Nats" he told the players "we will play to win, but not at any price." He told them that part of representing Canada internationally, was to provide a good image of the nation. That would be done by playing, clean, skillful, yet aggressive hockey. During the many practices and exhibition games the "Nats" played he drilled into them the need to not take penalties, and to forget all the violent tactics they had been taught by their previous coaches. He told his players that if they won using the same brutal, violent, methods Canadian teams had employed in the past, then they would leave Canada’s image tarnished before the world, and have accomplished nothing worthwhile. Needless to say NHL teams were not eager to allow their prospects to play for Father Dave. His idea that a player could get a university education (thus bypassing the Junior A ranks and focus on something other then strictly hockey) and play clean, skillful hockey while still hitting and being aggressive without violence, went against everything NHL teams believed. This reluctance on the part of NHL teams to allow their player to play for Father Dave had a huge negative impact on the talent available for the "Nats."

The first test for the "Nats" would be the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics. There the "Nats" played inspired hockey. They exhibited a high level of skill and sportsmanship rarely seen in previous Canadian entries in International events. European fans were amazed to see Canadian players who didn’t fight, or scream at the officials. Many fans and members of the media were also surprised at the sight of Father Dave wearing his clerical collar standing behind the Canadian bench. Who had ever seen a priest coaching a hockey team?

Father Dave’s game plans on how to defeat the top European teams were well thought out and executed, and his players "played their hearts" out. The "Nats" were able to defeat every opponent they faced with the exception of the Soviets and Czechs. They were good enough to push those two teams to play their best, and when that happened the superior Soviet and Czech talent was the difference. They finished the Olympic tournament with a record of 5 wins and 2 defeats. The defeats came at the hands of the Soviet and Czech National teams in bitterly fought games that were in doubt to the final buzzer. A bizarre tie-breaking system which was implemented at the "last minute" cost Canada a medal leaving the "Nats" and Father Dave very bitter at the International Ice Hockey Federation.

After the tournament Father Dave was given an award for the exhibiting the highest level of sportsmanship in the Olympics. That came about during the Canada/Sweden game. Scott Young who witnessed the incident described it as follows:

"Late in the game, Sweden’s Carl Oberg broke his stick during action on the ice – and flung the broken end towards the Canadian bench. It hit Father Bauer on the face. Bleeding, he held back his enraged players and not only calmed them down, but kept two or three of the most furious on the bench for the last few minutes of the game fearing they would go out looking for blood."

After their impressive showing in Innsbruck there was high hopes for the future of the "Nats." But things would never again be as bright. Father Dave gave up the coaching duties with the Nats to focus more on his teaching and clerical responsibilities at UBC. He did however act as the "Nats" General Manager doing an often brilliant job of recruiting talent in the face of strong NHL opposition. The NHL though denied the "Nats" such players as Bobby Orr, Serge Savard, Dennis Hull, Yvon Cournoyer etc. Despite that, such future NHL and WHA stars as Ken Dryden, Brian Conacher, Bob Murdoch, Fran Huck, Terry Caffery, Brian Glennie, and Wayne Stephenson among others all played for the "Nats."

The best the "Nats" were able to do were Bronze medals in the 1966 World Championships and 1968 Olympics as well a huge upset of the Soviet National Team at the 1967 Centennial Tournament played in Winnipeg. They never did as well on the ice as they had hoped however the "Nats" did in fact reinforce the belief of Father Dave, that young Canadian hockey players didn’t have to quit school to play great hockey and Canadians were capable of playing highly skilled hockey that made their country proud, without resorting to violence. The team was folded in 1970 after the Canadian government announced that Canada was withdrawing from all International hockey until they could use professional players.

After the "Nats" folded Father Dave went on to assist Japan with the reorganization of their national hockey team. In 1980 Canada returned to Olympic hockey for the first time since 1968 and Father Dave was a key figure in the organization of the Canadian Olympic team that competed at Lake Placid.

Father David Bauer died in 1988 however his legacy lives on at the arena named for him in Calgary, Alberta and in the hearts of Canadian hockey fans everywhere.

Craig Wallace lives in Toronto, Canada.
He has had a life long interest in Father David Bauer and the "Nats" and the Canadian Football Leagues' Toronto Argonauts. He is a free lance writer for the CFL and the author of the soon to be published book "A Slip in the Rain, The Toronto Argonauts and the Fumble into Oblivion."
Craig can be reached at argos@sprint.ca