Bob Hindmarch likes the look of the 2010 Canadian hockey teams.
“I think the characters of the people they’ve selected for 2010 are not just individuals, they’re very team-oriented,” he says of players like Scott Niedermayer, Sidney Crosby and Hayley Wickenheiser.
For Hindmarch, a former athletics director at UBC, teamwork is the single most important quality of an Olympic hockey team – and he should know. Hindmarch was the general manager and assistant coach for the first national hockey team that went to the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
Canada had returned home from the 1960 Olympics medal-less in hockey, a sport Canadians typically excel in. At the time there was no national team and the NHL didn’t share its players, “so our best senior team Canadian champion, the Alan Cup winner, would usually represent the country at the Games,” he said. Canada was no match for teams like Russia, which were filled with professional players.
In 1963, Hindmarch and the late Rev. Father David Bauer, who coached the UBC hockey team and taught at the university, established Canada’s first national Olympic hockey team at UBC. The team was built around a core of UBC students and the top junior and senior players in the country. Canada tied for third at the 1964 Games.
“With their team, they set the values and goals we still have for our game – not just for the national program, but for all hockey in Canada,” says Bob Nicholson, President and CEO of Hockey Canada.
Hindmarch, a UBC professor emeritus in human kinetics, has attended every Olympics from 1960 to 1998 and served as the Chef de Mission for the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. But the UBC Hall of Famer never imagined the Olympics would come to him. Now that they’re in his own backyard, he says, Vancouver is going to be hit with excitement.
“People don’t really understand the fun and enjoyment that’s going to happen,” says Hindmarch. “The big thing to do is just to get downtown and to meet the people and have some fun.”
He knows this Olympics will be a success and that everyone will get into the spirit. He says you just have to look at the sale of red Olympic mittens to see that the international competition is a unifier. “Look at the torch relay, it touched every little community.”
Hindmarch says the games will highlight every part of the country and people around the world will find out who Canadians are and what we are all about.
“Canada will be represented as a very stable, friendly country and that will be demonstrated over and over again.”
But, for the athletes, the Games are a completely different experience. “One great, positive item of the Olympic Games is that it brings young people together, and they all get along.”
Dances are held in the athlete’s village and Hindmarch says there’s no other time where a person can dance with people from so many different countries around the world in one night. He wishes all young people could have the opportunity to experience the Games.
But he also understands how important the Olympics are for the athletes – they can’t help but get caught up in the idea that they have to win a medal.
“When I was Chef de Mission in Sarajevo, I couldn’t believe the pressure,” says the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame inductee, who – wait for it – lives on Olympic Street in the Dunbar neighbourhood. He remembers telling the athletes: “Don’t win a medal for Canada. Go out and win a medal for you.”
To this day Hindmarch remembers the disappointment of figure skaters Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini. The pair were supposed to win a medal in Sarajevo, but early in the competition they missed a compulsory skill and were out of the running for the podium.
Hindmarch remembers comforting Underhill and watching the tears roll down her cheeks. Later that year, the skaters won the World Championships and Hindmarch sent Underhill flowers with the card: “The tears of a world champion are still on my jacket.”
In the 2006 Torino Olympics, Canada came third in medal standings with seven gold medals. After a $110 million Own the Podium initiative, Canada hopes to haul in a record number of medals in 2010 and win its first gold at an Olympic Games at home.
The Olympic legend isn’t worried about Canada’s 2010 medal count. “We’ll win medals where we don’t think we will,” says Hindmarch. And because of the development of female athletics in Canada relative to other countries, Hindmarch thinks “women will win more medals than men.”