Olympic hockey heroes honoured in war-themed Heritage Minute

Canada's Winnipeg Falcons, gold medal recipients, pose at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. The Canadian Press / Canadian Olympic Committee

WINNIPEG – A new Historica Canada video brings Canada’s game and its First World War coming-of-age together in a one-minute look at the Winnipeg Falcons.

The Falcons, who won the first Olympic gold medal for hockey, were a team of Winnipeggers of Icelandic heritage.

They broke up when members enlisted to fight in the First World War but regrouped to win the 1920 hockey gold in Antwerp, Belgium.

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“Wasn’t easy growing up on Sargent Avenue,” team executive Hebbie Axford tells players in the Olympic dressing room as the short video opens, referring to a street in Winnipeg’s West End.

A flashback features team members talking about “signing up” together, then the video goes back to the Olympic dressing room, where faces are sombre as the players are reminded of their sacrifice.

“We were needed, and we went,” Axford says over recreated war scenes featuring Falcons members, including Axford, who served in the Royal Flying Corps.

Two members of the Winnipeg Falcons – Frank Thorsteinson and George Cumbers – died during the First World War.

The Historica Canada video ends with one of the players  — First World War veteran Konnie Johannesson – saluting two Falcons uniforms hanging on the dressing-room wall as the team heads out onto the ice.

The video debuted at the Winnipeg Jets’ game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.