"It was a hectic winter," smiled Walter Bush Jr., reminiscing about spending 1964 as the manager of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.
Walter had earned the position after holding a similar position with the U.S. National Hockey Team at the IIHF World Championship in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1959. A year later, as a director of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Committee, Walter watched as the U.S. Hockey Team won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, California.
An outstanding negotiator and organizer, Walter put together an extensive schedule for the U.S. Hockey Team. "We played 55 games in 110 days all across the United States and throughout Europe."
Among those on the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team in 1964 were goaltender Pat Rupp, who would play a single game with the Detroit Red Wings following his return from the tournament, leading scorer Paul Coppo, Paul Johnson, who would be elected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, brothers Bill and Roger Christian, both members of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic Hockey Team and also members of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, as well as brothers Dave and Herb Brooks. Dave led the team in penalty minutes (35) through the tournament, while Herb's legacy remains coaching the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team to a gold medal in the 'Miracle On Ice.'
The 1964 Winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck, Austria. While the venue (Olympiahalle Innsbruck) was very good and the food in the Olympic Village was excellent, Walter's wife Mary commented at the time that not everything was up to expectations. "Accommodations were lacking. They put up new buildings that will be turned into three-room apartments. They had two cots (for the players) in the living room, two cots in the kitchen and two cots in the bedroom. There was hot water enough for one bath before you had to fill up the hot water tank and heat it again." To expedite matters, the players took showers at the rink.
The United States met Romania in their first qualifying match. Held January 28, the U.S. team walloped its opponent by a 7-2 score. The next day, the Soviet Union dumped the USA by a 5-1 count. The U.S. next blanked the United Team of Germany 8-0, but was not as successful as the Olympic tournament progressed. A 7-4 loss to Sweden took place on February 1, followed by an 8-6 defeat at the hands of Canada on the third of February. Successive losses followed: 7-1 to Czechoslovakia and 3-2 to Finland before the United States ended the Olympic Games with a 7-3 victory over Switzerland on February 8, 1964.
The Soviet Union took the gold medal in 1964, the first of four in a row for the USSR. Sweden accepted silver and Czechoslovakia the bronze. Canada finished fourth and the United States was fifth, winning two and losing five. The 1964 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team scored 29 goals, while relinquishing 33.
Although not earning a medal, the U.S. team made a fine showing. But for Walter Bush, the 1964 Olympic Games opened up many opportunities for him. "It was an experience I'll never forget," he stated.
Kevin Shea is the Hockey Hall of Fame's Editor of Publications and Online Features.