TV show reveals how the Scottish ice hockey team played the role of peace in the Cold War

In September 1961, just a few weeks after the Berlin Wall was built, the Scottish international women’s ice hockey team played West Germany in Berlin.
Although the Scots lost the game, the game’s socio-political impact was ‘seismic’ as it sent the message to the world that West Berlin remained open.

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The story of the historic game at West Berlin’s Olympiastadion will be told in ‘Cold War Hockey’, a feature-length documentary to be seen on BBC ALBA on Wednesday.
Former players Jenna Park, Valerie Crombie, Kit Smith and Alix Jamieson recall traveling to a tense geopolitical zone for a game Scots agreed to after English hockey authorities turned it down.
In anticipation of a tough game of hockey, the women’s eyes were opened to the magnitude of the situation in Berlin – a city that was physically and ideologically divided when the cement wall was built separating West Berlin from East Germany.
HeraldScotland: Jenna Park stars in the BBC Alba documentaryJenna Park can be seen in the BBC Alba documentary (Image: BBC)
Dozens of people trying to flee to the West would be shot.
Just a few weeks after construction of the Wall began, the 12 Scottish national ice hockey players traveled from Edinburgh to West Berlin.
They met with their West German opponents in Hanover, and the teams took buses to Berlin together to demonstrate to the outside world and the population of West Berlin that the transport corridors into the city were accessible.
However, when they reached Checkpoint Charlie, the entry point to West Berlin, they were held at gunpoint.
Armed soldiers boarded the team bus and the women watched in silence as their manager, Kate Weatherhead – a late addition to the tour party whose name was not on official records – was removed and interrogated.

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Jenna recalls, “It was a military compound with barbed wire, towers with searchlights on them, a small cluster of buildings where our poor manager was escorted off the bus to be interrogated.
“We all had to stay in our seats on the bus and worry about her. Two guards were on the bus with guns – we weren’t allowed to move, we weren’t allowed to talk.”

HeraldScotland: Valerie Crombie recalls her 1961 tripValerie Crombie recalls her 1961 trip (Image: BBC)
Valerie adds: “We had never seen guns before.
The team was later paraded in front of Soviet tanks at the Brandenburg Gate before they could begin preparations to play hockey.
The game in front of a large crowd ended in a 5-0 loss, but over 60 years later, Cold War Hockey reveals how the Scottish players were told in a pre-game political speech that their visit had played a part in maintaining world peace.
Jenna, who is visiting the city with Valerie for the first time, says: “When it was explained to the crowd, it was all in German and we didn’t understand it.
“We were briefed later in the day on what was said at the stadium and then we understood it much better. The gentleman speaking to us said, ‘You must believe that you have played a role in maintaining world peace ‘.
“We were very happy with ourselves at that point.”
Valerie added: “I don’t think we really realized how important it was that we were asked and that we came to this game.”
Written, produced and directed by PurpleTV’s Margot McCuaig, Cold War Hockey includes rare archive footage of the game as well as personal memorabilia from the players, the National Hockey Museum and Scottish Hockey.

HeraldScotland: Cold War Insights rehearsals underwayCold War Insights rehearsals are underway (Image: BBC)
McCuaig said: “When I learned of Scotland’s trip to Berlin to play hockey in 1961 at such a critically tense period of the Cold War, I knew it was a significant historic event that should be given wider publicity, particularly in light of the current political situation and the devastation of the war in Ukraine.
“I’m grateful to Jenna, Valerie, Kit and Alix for sharing their memories and mentioning the extent to which sports and politics can be intertwined in a highly charged environment.
“Cold War Hockey demonstrates the important role played by the Scottish ice hockey team in Cold War politics.”
dr Wolfgang Schmidt, research associate at the Willy Brandt Foundation in Berlin, says about the program: “It was very important to the West Berliners and also to the Governing Mayor Willy Brandt that West Berlin was seen as part of the Federal Republic. Accordingly, there was great interest in organizing sporting events in Berlin – especially international matches – be it in football or field hockey.
“Of course, that was particularly important back then as a symbol that the Federal Republic, West Germany, also stood by West Berlin. And in this respect it was also a sign of solidarity that such games and sports competitions were held in Berlin, in West Berlin.”
* Cold War Hockey will air Wednesday, April 5 at 9 p.m. TV show reveals how the Scottish ice hockey team played the role of peace in the Cold War

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