Hamilton College’s place in Olympic history recently was resurrected by none other than Stan Fischler, the highly regarded analyst known as “The Hockey Maven.”
Fischler, with a big assist from Andrew Burns ‘78, included in his popular email newsletter the story of Hamilton hockey coach Albert I. Prettyman and one of his goalies and the role they played in the 1936 Winter Games.
Prettyman is known on The Hill for having coached the College’s first-ever hockey game in 1918 and for leading the team until the mid-1940s. He also was instrumental in spreading hockey to the village of Clinton, which would become home to the Clinton Comets of the Eastern Hockey League for a time and remains a hockey hotbed.
Lesser known is Prettyman’s role in leading the U.S. hockey team to a bronze medal in ‘36.
Here is the story excerpted from Fischler’s newsletter:
The setting was Berlin in 1936 when the Winter Olympics were held in Germany. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was challenged and told off by an American goaltender from upstate N.Y.’s Hamilton College.
Our pal, prominent Hamilton alumnus Andrew Burns, tells the story.
Hamilton's hockey coach, Albert I. Prettyman, had charge of
Uncle Sam's hockey team during the 1936 Winter Olympics.
When the regular goalie for the team fell ill, Fran Baker, Hamil-
ton’s first-string goalie, was invited at the last minute to join the
squad as a reserve player.
Baker accompanied Coach Prettyman and, as luck would have
it, the U.S. drew the host country as its first-round opponent.
Before the game was played, Germany's dictator, Adolf Hitler,
asked to speak with a member of the U.S. team.
Baker, who had studied German at Hamilton, was asked to do
the translating. When the Nazi leader boastfully assured the two
Americans that their team would lose to Germany, Baker sum-
moned up his courage and his best German -- to forcefully assert
that there would be no such outcome.
On the contrary, the goalie stunned Hitler with his comments:
“The United States will always defeat Germany."
The game, played in a blinding snowstorm, was close, but the
result was a 1-0 victory for America. Uncle Sam’s team went on
to reach the medal round, in which Great Britain captured the
gold, Canada the silver, and the U.S. the bronze.
Ironically, Baker never took to the ice because the regular goalie
had recovered from his illness and was able to play after all. As
a member of the squad, Fran was awarded the bronze medal
along with his teammates, becoming the only Hamiltonian ever
to have taken home an Olympic medal.
Hitler never came to the American room again.