Suppose, just suppose, that a team of Soviet ice hockey players billed as the Amateur Champions of the U.S.S.R. came to New York for a series of matches with our top amateur teams. Suppose the Russian team revealed itself in its first game to be totally inept, finally taking trouncings by scores astronomical in hockey. Now suppose that off the ice the Soviet players lounged around the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria making whistles and wolf calls at pretty American girls and even pinched an occasional bottom. What would the public reaction be?
This is definitely not a rigged quiz, but don't attempt to answer until you have read this report from Edmund Stevens, our Moscow correspondent:
The Brockton Club hockey team arrived in Moscow for a series of matches with the top Soviet players. Advance publicity had built them up as a formidable outfit, the Amateur Champions of America. It took only 10 minutes of play in the first game, against the Soviet army team, to show that they and their opponents just weren't in the same league.
At the very start the Americans landed two pucks in the army team's cage. It was strictly beginners' luck. Thereafter the Soviets took over control, and the Brocktonites never had a chance. The final score was 12-3.
Two days later Krylia Sovietov (Soviet Wings), a club organized under trade-union auspices and rated a couple of notches below the army team, gave Brockton an even worse trouncing: score 17-1. Spectators began to mutter: "Is this really the best the Americans have to offer?"..."They should have stayed home and played croquet."..."This isn't hockey, it's slaughter on ice." Whereas at the first matches the sports palace was filled to its 12,000 capacity, at the third match the bleachers were less than three-fourths full.
For a while in their third match, against a Soviet all-star team, the Americans managed to put up a more vigorous defense and drew cheers from the crowd. Their effort was so obvious that one spectator smilingly remarked: "Maybe they're playing that way because they're afraid the U.S. won't let them back in." But the final score was a funereal 17-0.
An extremely sad sack was Coach Louis Duhamel of the Brockton team. Away from the rink he had his hands more than full trying to keep some of the boys in his big 17-man squad in line. He said, ruefully, that you never really got to know your players until you went on a long trip like this one with them, when you discovered that some of them were "on the bum." It wasn't simply that the offenders refused to keep any kind of training but that they stayed up all night smoking, drinking and overeating (Duhamel held "the trots" responsible for helping to pile up the adverse scores), so that when they showed for practice all they could do was yawn. Too many acted around the Hotel Metropole like delegates to a barflies' convention and, as though seeking to recoup defeat on the rink with exploits of another kind, lounged in the lobby, wolf-calling the ladies and making passes at the female guests and help in the elevators and hallways. Soon the complaints were pouring in from those who had had their bottoms pinched or skirts raised, and after a mortifying session with the hotel manager, Coach Duhamel warned the offenders that unless they behaved themselves he would ship them out to Copenhagen by first available plane. This dire threat seemed to have no particular effect.
Thus Correspondent Stevens. It perhaps only remains to note that the cultural traffic between the U.S. and Moscow, including the exchange of sports visits, is now beginning to resemble a tourist rush in which it seems as though anybody who can hold a hockey stick or play the harmonica can find himself representing the United States of America. Brockton's billing as the "Amateur Champions" of the U.S. was based on the fact that it won the Amateur Hockey Association's national senior championship in Green Bay, Wis. last March. Sending a representative all-star team was out of the question because this month America's best hockey amateurs (including one Brockton player who stayed home on that account) are trying out for the Squaw Valley Olympic team.
The latest cultural travelers to Moscow should have stuck to Massachusetts.