Spectators were either soldiers who had just come off front-line duty, or came from reserve units to watch the games at the "Imjin Gardens" arena. Their rifles were never far away, and a tank can be seen just past the tent, as an attack by Communist forces was an ever-present possibility. During this game, the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricias won 4-2 against the 1st Battalion of the Royal 22e Regiment.
Photo Credit: R22eR

Imjin Classic hockey

A vandoos player takes a shot on net at the 2014 Imjin Classic in Ottawa. The Vandoos went on to win the game against the PPCLI 7-4 © Richard Lawrence Photography (with permission)

What if they held a war, and a Canadian hockey game broke out?

In the cold Korean winter of 1952-53 Canadian soldiers on the front lines decided to put down their rifles for a moment and organize hockey matches on the frozen Imjin River.

While some members of the Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry, (PPCLI) and the Royal 22nd Regiment (R22R- “Vandoos), and the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) played against each other on a makeshift rink, others manned their positions on the hills and trenches around to counter possible Chinese attacks.

A Vandoos player takes a shot on net at the 2014 Imjin Classic in Ottawa. The Vandoos went on to win the game against the PPCLI 7-4 © Richard Lawrence Photography (with permission)

To the sound of American artillery, the chance to play Canada’s national sport amid the very real risk of enemy shelling and mortar fire was a morale booster and other allies noted once again that Canadian troops were hard to intimidate.

One wonders if the Chinese were not also somewhat taken aback by the cheek of the Canadians playing hockey within range of their guns.

A few years ago, members of the military decided to re-stage the event in Canada annually and a friendly rivalry has been created between the two regiments.

This year is a bit more special however. It’s the 100th anniversary of both those two regiments, and the annual rematch of what has been called the “Imjin Classic” was held this weekend in the national capital, Ottawa, hosted by the Korean Embassy.

This is apparently the original Imjin Cup and was found at a second hand store in 1990 in Seoul by a Canadian living in Korea © Richard Lawrence Photography (with permission)

One of the original players on the frozen Imjin River, Dennis Moore, was inducted into the Korea Veterans Association (Chapter 7- Ottawa) in a ceremony preceeding the game.

This year the Vandoos won, 7-4 over the Pats… not that the final score was tremendously important.

Much more important is the symbolic friendship of the regiments, normally stationed in different provinces some thousands of kilometres from each other within Canada.

Korean Ambassador Cho and his wife enjoy the excitement of the game. The event was hosted by the Korean Embassy in Ottawa © Richard Lawrence Photography (with permission)

The weekend re-enactment match was also organized in November, the month of Remembrance, to honour veterans of the Korean War.

More photos at Richard Lawrence Photography- here

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2 comments on “Imjin Classic hockey
  1. Peter Ashcroft says:

    ‘Vandoos’ – so that is how you spell The Royal Twenty Second Brigade.