Carl Erhardt captained the famous Great Britain team that was the first nation to win the Triple Crown of World, Olympic and European titles in 1936. He represented his country four more times in the 1930s, as well as coaching their 1948 Olympic squad and refereeing in the 1950 World Championships. Renowned as a great motivator, he also captained the 1935 team in Davos.
A stay-at-home rearguard, who was difficult to get past, when the 1936 Winter Olympics came round, he had already played for ‘England’ in 1931, 1934 and 1935, despite being in his mid-thirties.
In the Bavarian Olympics, he celebrated his 39th birthday on the very day Britain secured the gold medal by holding the USA 0-0 after triple overtime, making him the oldest ice hockey player to win Olympic gold. He anchored GB’s defence in six of their seven games and often logged in excess of 40 minutes, compensating for his loss of speed with smart plays and good conditioning.
Erhardt was one of the ‘old school’ of gentlemen players, who picked up the sport while being privately educated at schools in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A sporting attitude permeated all he did on the ice. A born leader, he set an example of fair play and encouraged his often more boisterously inclined Canadian trained team-mates to play the game with style and class.
At home in London, he skated as much as possible at the Westminster Ice Club on Millbank when it opened in 1926. He joined the Princes club when it moved there a year later, and was on the team when they were part of the first English League campaign in 1929-30.
The shortage of welcoming rinks in the England, plus competition from an influx of Canadians driven over by the Depression in North America, often made it difficult for him to get a game, but this only encouraged him to work harder.
This eventually paid off so that when the Streatham rink, with room for 3,000 spectators, formed a team, he was offered a place for their first winter in the English League in 1933-34. The south London club is still the one with which his name is most often associated.
Keen to promote the sport, he was instrumental in bringing over future Hall of Famers Bob Giddens and Red Stapleford. With Carl as captain, Streatham won the league in 1934-35 and became one of the founding members of the professional English National League in September 1935.
By then his age and business commitments (he was a director of a London-based engineering firm) restricted him to competing mostly in the London Provincial League with Streatham’s second team, the Royals.
Though he was selected by GB again in 1937, he was forced to drop out with a knee injury and retired from international play, having acquired 21 caps. When Britain returned to the world scene for the 1948 Winter Olympics and their previous coach Percy Nicklin was busy managing Harringay Arena, he agreed to take over and guided the team to a sixth-place finish.
He was back on the international scene again in 1950 when the championships were held in London, this time wearing a referee’s uniform.
A sporting all-rounder, Carl excelled at skiing, water-skiing and tennis and was a founder and first president of the British Water Ski Federation.
When he retired from playing, he wrote a book, Ice Hockey, Skating and Dancing (W Foulsham & Co Ltd, London 1937), and became a vice-president of the British Ice Hockey Association. He served on the Council of the governing body for 40 years.
Carl Alfred Erhardt was born in Beckenham, Kent on 15 February 1897 of German parentage and died in Esher, Surrey on 3 May 1988. He was inducted into Britain’s Hall of Fame in 1950 and the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1998.