Bill Cleary on US Amateur Hockey Team
The Sporting Scene
Olympic hockey star Bill Cleary, who led the Crimson to the Eastern Championship in 1954, went off on another world tour last week, this time with the U.S. Amateur Hockey Team.
The Amateur sextet is essentially the same as the 1956 Olympic team which finished second to the Russians in the winter games at Cortina, Italy. Cleary also centered one of the two first lines on that team.
This year's tournament, which will be held in Moscow on February 23, should find the United States in even tougher competition than in '55, according to Cleary.
Since the rules on eligibility are not quite as strict as they were for the Olympic games, countries such as Canada and Czechoslovakia will be able to use semi-professional talent to strengthen their teams. "Particularly Canada should be better," Cleary said, "since it will use several players from the Junior Canadians, an affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens in the National League."
However, Cleary predicted, before leaving for a 40-day practice session at Bowdoin College's new rink in Bruns-wick, Me., the tournament still should be a close battle between the U.S., Russia, Czechoslovakia, Canada, and possibly Sweden.
The Russians, of course, will be the pre-tourney favorites. They defeated the second-place U.S. team, 4-0, last winter, although the score was only 1-0 until the final three minutes of play.
Cleary had only praise for the efficient skating of the Soviet team. "They don't go in for heavy bodychecking at all, and penalties for the slightest checking offense were called immediately in the Olympics, he added.
"It's the Russian discipline that's so amazing. After they had defeated Canada in the final game of the Olympics, they were the only ones who didn't go out and celebrate. We all went out on the town after the games were over, but their coach called a practice drill that night instead," Cleary explained.
Bottle of Vodka
One of Cleary's favorite souvenirs of the 1956 games is a genuine Russian bottle of Vodka. It seemed that early in the competition, when the Russian team thought the Canadians would give them the most trouble, Cleary became friendly with an English-speaking Russian student who promised him a bottle of Vodka if the U.S. knocked off Canada in the second round.
The sextet did just that, winning handily, 4-1, and Cleary received his prize.
The collegiate record-holder explained that the Russians developed their fantastic skating habits from the Czechs, who had the game years before the Soviets. "The Russians first learn to skate by playing a game called 'bandi.' It's similar to field hockey and played with sticks like field hockey sticks on an ice rink as big as a soccer field."
The U.S. Amateur Team is scheduled to tour the East during January and may come to Boston once to play another trio of college teams, including the Crimson. After this, the sextet will play in Europe, traveling to Moscow for the Tournament.
In some of the pre-practice matches against local college teams, Cleary did some of his own scouting for Coach Cooney Weiland's team. "Providence College and Boston College are the two teams Harvard will have to beat this year," he said. "I doubt if B.U. and Brown (the other two teams the Amateur sextet faced) will give you much trouble."
Cleary left the College at the end of his junior year and will finish his army enlistment this march. He currently plans to return to finish college next fall