Murray Dowey’s head was pasted atop Dick Ball’s body (front row, far left) in the official photograph of the 1948 RCAF Flyers.
Richard Alan Ball
Born: January 17, 1926 (Toronto)
Died: December 21, 2014 (Toronto)
Dick Ball was one of the finest amateur goaltenders in the land when he was parachuted onto a Royal Canadian Air Force hockey team designated to represent Canada at the 1948 Olympics.
The 5-foot-7, 155-pound goalie was playing for the Maher Shoes team in the industrial Toronto Hockey League when selected for the RCAF Flyers. Earlier in 1947, his solid netminding led the Varsity Blues of the University of Toronto to the intercollegiate championship. The Blues were coached by former NHL player Ace Bailey.
Ball was ordered to report to the team on Dec. 31, 1947, and to prepare to sail from New York to Europe on Jan. 9. Three days before departure, Ball failed a medical examination. A spot on a lung in an X-ray suggested he was suffering from a lung condition. He was grounded and off the team.
“Disaster struck at Canada’s Olympic hockey team, the RCAF Flyers, almost on the eve of their departure overseas,” the Canadian Press reported.
The Flyers called on Murray Dowey, a 22-year-old Toronto bus driver, to be Ball’s replacement. The Flyers, who had a dreadful pre-tournament record, which explains why Ball and other non-military personnel were recruited to the team, went on to win the Olympic gold medal on an outdoor rink at St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Meanwhile, young Ball feared he might have tuberculosis. Further tests revealed he was in perfect health, but by then the team had set sail for Europe and glory. He could only wonder what might have been.
Ball enlisted in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve from April, 1944, until November, 1945. He served aboard HMCS Canso, a Bangor-class minesweeper, seeing action in the waters of the English Channel and the North Sea,
Ball led his Maher Shoes team to the league championship in 1948-49 before launching a career as a sales and marketing executive. He married Claire Thomson, his university sweetheart, and they raised three sons and a daughter. They all survive him, as do 10 grandchildren.