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Korea wasn't 'my war' but it's good to see that this mostly forgotten war is getting some attention from the public in this way. You might want to call it 'uniquely Canadian' but it's a nice story:


Hockey games in Ottawa, Seoul will honour morale-boosting matches played by troops during Korean war

Randy Boswell, Postmedia News | Jan 22, 2013 9:49 PM ET
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Canadian and South Korean officials are preparing to rekindle 60-year-old memories of morale-boosting hockey games played by Canadian troops on a frozen river amid the battlefields of the Korean War.

It would have been a startling sight for enemy soldiers from the hills above the Imjin River in the winters of 1952 and 1953 — Canadians fighting for the puck on shimmering ice between deadly battles for precious terrain on the Korean Peninsula at the height of the Cold War conflict.

The matches took place “in the sound of the heavy guns of nearby U.S. Army artillery,” just a short distance from the front lines of the struggle against Communist forces, said Korean War veteran Vince Courtenay.

And next month, in both Ottawa and Seoul, that wartime outbreak of hockey that briefly reminded Canadian soldiers what they were missing back home will be commemorated in outdoor events inspired by the Imjin River games.

Courtenay, who publishes a newsletter for Canadian veterans of the war, credits Korean-born Conservative Sen. Yonah Martin for organizing a Feb. 10 exhibition game on the Rideau Canal — to be held during Ottawa’s annual Winterlude festival and involving members of the military, MPs and others.

A week earlier, on Feb. 3, an anniversary match is scheduled to take place on an outdoor rink in front of Seoul’s city hall. That game, also involving Canadian military personnel and associated with a photo exhibit at the Canadian embassy, highlights the Imjin River Cup Memorial Hockey Tournament, an annual competition in the Asian city inspired by the Canadians’ war-era matches.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there,” 86-year-old Korean War veteran Charles Goodman, who played on the so-called “Imjin Gardens” ice surface as a young soldier six decades ago, told Postmedia News on Tuesday from his home in Sidney, B.C. “I think it’s just super — an excellent idea.”

Goodman recalled games played between his Royal 22nd Regiment team — the “Van Doos,” of course — and fellow troops from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal Canadian Regiment.

“It was quite cold in the wintertime. We didn’t have much snow but we did have snow. And certainly the river in the shallow parts froze up,” said Goodman. “I can remember one game — and I think I have a picture of it — with me trying to dodge a wet spot on the ice, or it might have even been a hole, as I was going after the puck.”

Goodman, who also fought in the Second World War and retired from the military with the rank of major in 1975, said strapping on skates and chasing a puck over the frozen Imjin was just what he and his comrades needed to lift their spirits during those winters of war in the Far East.

“I couldn’t have thought of any better recreation — well, maybe one better recreation,” he said with a chuckle.

The Imjin River flows south from its source in North Korea across today’s demilitarized zone and into South Korea, eventually passing near Seoul, the capital.

Goodman remembers that the same bend of the Imjin that became Canadians’ makeshift hockey rink during winters was also a favourite swimming spot in the summer.

“They called it ‘Bare Ass Beach,’” he said, “because nobody took a bathing suit with them to war.”

Nobody took skates with them either, said Goodman, who believes a supply of hockey gear must have been shipped overseas to equip the soldiers for those games in 1952 and 1953.

“We didn’t have much of an audience, since most of the troops were at the (front) line,” recalled the former Van Doos right winger. “But if there was a battalion out of the line for a rest, then they would come and cheer us on
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