Johnny Coward was a member of Great Britain’s most successful World Championship sides in the 1930s, notably the 1936 squad that famously won the Triple Crown in the Winter Olympics.
A left-winger who was an effective back-checker, he played in six of the seven games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, missing the opening game against Sweden but later scoring against Hungary. When the championships were held in London a year later, he was capped another five times as GB retained their European title
Coward said: “I knew I could make the team on my skating ability but I wasn’t much of a goal scorer. Fortunately, [coach Percy] Nicklin wanted me as a defensive forward. If anybody broke loose it was my job to keep them from scoring.”
John was born in England but grew up in Canada, returning to these shores in 1935 after receiving an invitation from Nicklin, who was a teammate on his home town side Fort Frances (Ontario) Tigers. Percy had just taken charge of Richmond Hawks in the new English National League.
With his fellow Olympian ‘Chirp’ Brenchley on right-wing, he and the Hawks challenged for league honours all season, only to be pipped by Wembley Lions for the top honour on goal difference. He spent two seasons with the Hawks, scoring ten points.
When the Hawks collapsed, he returned to Canada and re-joined the Fort Frances club, now named Maple Leafs. In 1939-40, by a quirk of sporting fate they met Port Arthur Bearcats in the regional finals of the play-offs for the prestigious Allan Cup. The Bearcats had represented Canada in the 1936 Olympics. This time Coward was on the losing side.
After war service in the Military Police, he worked in a paper mill in Fort Frances and coached minor hockey teams. A keen golfer, from 1969 he ran the pro shop at a local golf club.
John (also known as ‘Jack’ or ‘Red’ after his hair colour) Coward was born on 28 October 1910 in Ambleside in the Lake District of England and died on 8 February 1989 in Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada. His Olympic jersey was donated to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 2001. He was inducted into Britain’s Hall of Fame in 1993 as a member of GB’s 1936 Olympic team.