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1948 RCAF Flyers

RedOrval “Red” Gravelle joined the RCAF in 1947 as a machinist never realizing what a momentous choice this would be for his hockey career. A year later the young defenseman was recruited to the RCAF Flyers, an ice hockey team that was to represent Canada at the 1948 Winter Olympics. At age 20, he was the youngest member of the team. During the tournament he played in eight games, scored three goals and helped ensure Canada would take home the gold medal. The National Air Force Museum of Canada is proud to be the home of Gravelle’s Olympic collection including his gold medal and hockey sweater.

The RCAF Flyers were a quickly put together team of RCAF and ex RCAF members recruited by Squadron Leader A. Gardner “Sandy” Watson of Ottawa. After he learned that Canada did not have representation in men’s ice hockey at the upcoming Olympic Games he convinced Ottawa that the RCAF should field a team of players.

Selected from various Wings across the country, the ragtag team was not favoured to do well at the Olympics; in fact they were viewed as a bit of an embarrassment. They had lost several exhibition games in Europe prior to the games and were considered underdogs by most. However in true RCAF/Canadian spirit they rose to the occasion. As noted on the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame website: “… the Flyers reeled off six straight victories before registering a scoreless tie with heavily-favoured Czechoslovakia. In their final game against the host Swiss team, a win by two or more goals ensured the team a gold medal. In a hostile environment, the Flyers rode 22-year-old goaltender Murray Dowey to a 3-0 shutout win. Dowey finished the tournament with five shutouts in eight games.”



Donated by Mrs Phyllis Gravelle of Trenton, widow of Orval Gravelle, the collection consists of ice hockey insignia and equipment: the hockey jersey (casual dress), the ice hockey gold medal Winter Olympic Games – St Moritz, 1948, lapel pins, and participant plaques and souvenirs from the games. Come for a visit and have your own Olympic Gold experience!






The following images are courtesy of the private collection of Mrs. Phylis Gravelle and not part of the Museum collection. Mrs. Gravelle has very generously allowed us to feature these amazing shots from the 1948 Winter Olympics as part of our website and for the enjoyment of all.

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