Eric Paterson

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Eric Evan Paterson

Born: September 11, 1929 (Edmonton, Alberta)
Died: January 14, 2014 (Sherwood Park, Alberta)

Eric Paterson was half of the goaltending duo that helped Canada win an Olympic gold medal at the 1952 Winter Games.

He was added to the roster of the Edmonton Mercurys, an amateur team selected to represent Canada at the Olympics in Oslo, Norway.

ImageThe 22-year-old netminder had limited experience at any level in hockey. Diminutive and slight, at just 5-foot-9, weighing 155 pounds, he was known for his quick reflexes and for being a nervous wreck before games. He was paired with Ralph Hansch, 27, a more experienced goalie who worked as an Edmonton firefighter. (At the Olympics, Paterson wore sweater No. 1, while Hansch wore No. 0, a number since banned from use at the Games.) The pair surrendered 14 goals in eight games, as Canada won seven straight before tying the United States, 3-3, to claim the gold medal.

Paterson gave up just four goals in three games, all victories, for a 1.33 goals-against average. He recorded a shutout in an 11-0 whitewash of Poland, played outdoors in a driving snowstorm. He was also in goal for an 11-2 win over Switzerland and a 3-2 win over Sweden the following day. His performance was all the more remarkable for his having suffered a knee injury during a pre-Olympic exhibition tour of Europe.

The players returned home to Edmonton to a parade along Jasper Avenue. The Mercurys were sponsored by Jim Christiansen, a local automobile dealer who spent $100,000 to send the team to Europe and who covered player salaries for the duration. A half-century would pass before another Canadian team claimed Olympic hockey gold.

Paterson played two seasons of junior hockey with the Edmonton Maple Leafs before giving up the sport. He had been inactive for two seasons when he made his senior hockey debut on Jan. 5, 1951, when he was pressed into service as an emergency replacement for Bev Bentley of the Regina Caps, who was out with influenza. With Paterson in nets, the Caps upset the hometown Edmonton Flyers, by 4-2.

A year later, he was on Olympic ice.

Through the 1950s, he played for the Nelson (B.C.) Maple Leafs, Rossland (B.C.) Warriors and Ponoko (Alta.) Stampeders, who claimed the Western Canadian intermediate title in 1956. He gave up five goals in a loss in his one Western Hockey League game for the Edmonton Flyers.

One of his final games as a player was an exhibition pitting his intermediate Central Alberta All-Stars against the visiting Japanese Olympic team. The All-Stars defeated Japan 17-2 in a game played before 3,800 fans at Lacombe, Alta. Paterson made 27 saves, while a beleaguered pair of Japanese goalies stopped 53 of 70 shots fired their way.

Paterson worked as a machinist with the Edmonton Transit System for 42 years. He served on the executive of his union, Local No. 569 of the Amalgamated Transit Union. For 11 years, he was an appeals commissioner for the Workers Compensation Board. He was predeceased by Hansch, who died in 2008.

For five decades, the Mercurys held the unwanted title as most recent Canadian hockey Olympic gold medallists. They happily relinquished the title in 2002 when Canada defeated the United States to claim gold at the Olympics at Salt Lake City, Utah. Paterson was in attendance at the game.

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The 1952 Olympic Mercurys with goalie Eric Paterson front row, centre.

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