1933 - 1991
When Australia competed for the first time in Olympic Ice Hockey at the 1960 Squaw Valley Games, it was a history-making occasion for more than one reason for Steve Tikal. Born Zdenek Tikal in 1933 in Czechoslovakia, Tikal defected from the new communist country, ending up in Australia where he became a star player in a local Melbourne Ice Hockey league. Tikal was selected to play in the Olympics and the Australian Team drew Czechoslovakia as their first opponent at the Games.
Playing for Czechoslovakia was Tikal's twin brother Frantisek. The Czech team defeated Australia 18-1 but in doing so seemed to target Tikal directly considering him a traitor to their country. When he took to the ice, he was speared in the neck by a Czech player. His Olympic campaign ended after this first game after a collision with, of all people, his brother, left him with a separated shoulder and not able to compete any more.
Although he didn't play another game, it is believed that Tikal was reunited with his brother, whom he hadn't seen in 12 years, under cover of darkness away from the watching eyes of the secret police.
The Olympics were a David and Goliath battle for the Aussie team, who were actually at their peak in 1956 but a shortfall in funds meant that they had to wait until 1960 for an invitation and financial help from the Americans to get there.
The Australian team mainly comprised tradesmen who had gravitated to suburban ice rinks in search of entertainment after World War II. All the players except Sydneysider Rob Dewhurst were from Victoria, and they competed in one of Australia's few Ice Hockey leagues - practicing for an hour a week at the St Moritz rink in St Kilda.
The team arrived with just a couple of days before competition, with no time to acclimatise to the Valley which was 1500m above sea level. The rarefied air, fast ice and the fact that all players were amateurs in the true sense of the word, meant that they had a difficult tournament ahead.
The team played six games and lost all of them - scoring 9 goals but conceding 83. They placed ninth.