Because of the Second World War, there had been a 12-year break between Winter Olympic competitions. The Games at St. Moritz marked Canada's return to international competition for the first time since before the War.
The problems that had plagued the Americans at the 1947 World Championships produced grave complications in 1948, as two American teams arrived in Switzerland. One team was sent by the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States and was supported by the IIHF, while the other was sent by the Amateur Athletic Union, which had represented the United States at all previous Winter Games and now used its old connections to gain support from the International Olympic Committee.
Both American teams appeared on the ice for the opening ceremonies and police assistance was required to restore order. The IOC decided to disqualify both American teams, but passions later calmed and the AAU team left for home. This allowed the IOC to withdraw its suspension and reinstate the AHAUS team. In the end, the United States entry was "outlawed" by the IOC and was not counted in the final Olympic hockey standings (though it remained in the World Championships).
Problems also plagued the Olympic tournament on the ice, where warm weather played havoc with the schedule and made it necessary to begin some games at 7 a.m. For the first time in history, a team went through an Olympic hockey tournament undefeated and failed to win the gold medal. The victim of the single round-robin format was Czechoslovakia, which played to a scoreless tie with gold-medalist Canada, represented by the Royal Canadian Air Force Flyers. The Czechoslovaks had to settle for a silver because the Canadians had a better goals for and against differential of plus-64, compared to their plus-62.
In essence, the gold medal was decided when Canada trounced the eventual fourth-place United States team 12-3 and Czechoslovakia struggled to beat the Americans 4-3. The star of the Canadian team was Wally Halder, who recorded 29 points on 21 goals and eight assists. Halder, a civilian who had been added to the team just 10 days before the team sailed for Europe, scored six times in what turned out to be the all-important victory over the U.S.
For the first time in a championship in which Canada competed, the winner was not decided until the final game. The results proved that Czechoslovakia's World Championship in 1947 could not solely be attributed to Canada's absence. It was generally agreed that the Czechoslovak team was comparable to Canada's and boasted a much stronger offense. Czechoslovakia's captain Vladimir Zabrodsky, who scored 27 goals in the tournament, was recognized as the Olympics' best forward.
The bronze medal went to Switzerland, just as it had 20 years earlier when the Winter Olympics had also been staged in St. Moritz.