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Olympics

ON THIS DATE: Canada wins silver medal at 1936 Olympics

Canada Men's Basketball at 1936 Olympics
Canada Men's Basketball at 1936 Olympics Tony Techko Collection

Imagine if basketball at the Olympics was played outside. Imagine if it was played on clay.

Now imagine pouring rain, resulting in entire games being played in the mud.

That's exactly what happened at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin where on this date, Canada won its first and only medal in men's basketball.

"Our basketball court was there. It was a tennis court. If it rains, as soon as the basketball hit the water, it wouldn't move."

- Irving 'Toots' Meretsky, member of 1936 Canadian men's basketball team

Representing Canada in Berlin was the Windsor Ford V-8s, a team based out of Windsor, Ontario and sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Due to its proximity to Detroit, many of the players had experience playing collegiate basketball in the United States, which made Windsor somewhat of a hotbed for experienced basketball talent.

Since there wasn't an official national team, a competition was held across Canada for the right to compete in Berlin. The Windsor team first defeated Toronto to win the Eastern Canada title before defeating British Columbia to win the national championship. As there was no federal funding to pay for the trip, the V-8s made the trip thanks to the Ford Motor Company, which agreed to cover the cost.

Canada won its first five games convincingly, guaranteeing a podium finish with a resounding 42-15 win over Poland in the semifinals. Then on Aug. 14, 1936, the Windsor Ford V-8s took on the United States in the gold medal game in front of a standing crowd of about 2,000 rain-drenched fans.

Since nobody could dribble in the mud, players were left to simply pass and nothing else. After the USA built a 15-4 halftime lead, they went into a defensive shell with both teams scoring just four points in the second half. Not surprisingly, it was the last basketball game ever played outdoors

Although the boys from Windsor lost that day, they left Berlin with silver medals, an accomplishment which remains the gold standard for Canadian men's basketball.

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