Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two of Minnesota’s greatest Olympic gold medalists are locked in bitter international battle to get their Olympic jerseys returned from Canada.
Dave Christian of Moorhead was on the U.S.A. 1980 Olympic Hockey team that shocked the world and won a gold medal.
His dad, Bill, was on the only other U.S.A. Olympic Hockey gold medal team in 1960. Their Olympic jerseys are in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The Christians want them back, the Canadians are saying no and the origin of the dispute goes back 30 years.
In 1981 Bill Christian received a call from the Hockey Hall of Fame. The hall wanted to display both of their jerseys. At the time, both jerseys were hanging in a closet at Bill Christian’s Warroad home. Bill Christian said he believed he was loaning the jerseys to the hall.
“I thought they were just going to display them never dreaming they would be gone forever,” Bill said.
Over the past six months, the Christian’s have been trying to get their jerseys back.
“Why now it would be nice to get my jersey back in my possession before something happens to me,” said Bill.
“I would like to pass on those jerseys to my children,” Dave said.
The Hockey Hall of Fame has told the Christians the jerseys now belong to the hall.
“It’s our viewpoint that the sweaters were donated in 1981 in a legally effective manner and they are now the property of the Hockey Hall of Fame,” said Hall Curator Phil Pritchard.
At the heart of this dispute is a 1981 letter from the Hockey Hall of Fame to Bill Christian thanking Christian for “the donation” of the jerseys. In 1981, Bill was busy running the Christian Brothers Hockey stick company in Warroad. Bill Christian said he paid little attention to the letter.
“I just took it that good, they arrived safely. I never took it as a legal deal they should keep the jerseys,” said Bill.
“The mistake that was made was not to question the wording of the letter, the receipt of the letter that the Hall had sent in 1981. My dad is not an attorney,” said Dave.
At the time Bill Christian sent the jerseys to the hall, Dave Christian was just beginning his 15-year professional career. He vaguely remembers his father telling him he had sent the jerseys to Toronto.
“I never gave my jersey to the hall. I never gave my jersey to anyone. I want my jersey back,” said Dave.
The Hockey Hall of Fame has sent the Christian’s a letter saying they are ready to fight a legal battle over the jerseys.
“I think it’s wrong for them to keep threatening a legal battle over this. “We are going to fight for them,” said Bill.
Whatever happens, the Christian’s know what they did in those USA jerseys can never be taken away.
“Where the jerseys are, where they hang and where they are displayed won’t change the outcome,” said Dave.
The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto has no connection to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth.