The first U.S. bandy season began in January 1981. It abruptly ended at 10:35am on Sunday morning February 15th as blood from an injured player poured onto the ice. My team, the Bandolier was to play Bandy Aide in the final game of the season.(Blackberry Bandy and Bandy Roosters were two of the other team names that first season). There was, however, a very big problem with the weather. Four days previous the temperature had fallen to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the ice at Lewis Park Bandy Rink was both thick and solid. On February 13th a record warm front moved in to Minnesota and by 9:30 on the morning of the 15th the temperature was already 50 degrees, not only a 70 degree swing in 4 days but also very bad for natural ice rinks. Both Bandolier and Bandy Aide arrived at the rink a half hour before the 10am game time to determine if the ice would allow the game to be played. The ice was already soft and slushy and rapidly getting worse. Bandolier had a record of 5-0 having scored 34 goals and given up only 6. Bandy Aide was 1-4 scoring 8 goals and allowing 34. Both felt that a Bandolier victory would be a certainty and given the unpleasant ice conditions agreed that the game should not take place.
Gunnar Fast did not agree. A Captain in the Swedish Army and a Certified Bandy Trainer Gunnar had been sent to Minnesota in late November 1980 by the Swedish Bandy Federation. His mission was to recruit hockey players to try bandy, promote the organization of teams and create and run a league on the ice at Lewis Park. Gunnar was the man for the job as he succeeded far beyond what Sweden had anticipated could possibly occur. That first season Gunnar organized 12 teams, 7 in the Elite Division and 5 in Division 1. He refereed almost every game and those he didn't ref he played in. Gunnar was complete and total confidence and authority which he expressed in both his precise english and his military demeanor. Gunnar informed the Bandolier that the Bandy Roosters were claiming that if the Bandolier vs Bandy Aide game was not played then the Roosters would share the league title with the Bandolier with 5 victories each. Gunnar was in agreement with the Roosters. The fact that Bandolier had beaten the Roosters 5-1 one week earlier was not considered meaningful. It appeared that Gunnar was determined that the first US season would be completed on the ice, no matter what. He did ask Bandy Aide if they would forfeit the game. He received the answer he expected. "No"!
"This game will be played" Gunnar affirmed. And so we played. The ice was so soft the players were forced to run on their skates just as if they were wearing boots. There was no possibility of stick handling the ball and moving it up and down the ice consisted of flipping the ball or the goalie throwing it long. The Bandolier somehow were able to flip the ball down the ice to forwards who flipped it into the net and we scored 2 times in the first 10 minutes. At the 20 minute mark a Bandy Aide player caught his skate in the ice and broke his ankle. He was carried off the ice and I assume someone drove him to the hospital. The game continued although with little effort or enthusiasm as the players were focused on not breaking their own ankles. During the brief halftime both teams petitioned Gunnar to end the game. "The result will not be valid if we play only 1 half" Gunnar determined. I doubt there was a rule book he was relying on. Two minutes into the second half a Bandy Aide player fell in the slush and a Bandolier accidentally skated over his wrist, severing an artery, or at least I thought so because the blood that jetted out of the wound into the slush was bright red. I learned later that the injured player's life was never in jeopardy because it takes 10 to 15 minutes to bleed to death and we applied immediate compression the the wound to staunch the bleeding. Gunnar agreed that this was an appropriate time to end the game and declared the Bandolier to be USA's first national bandy champion as the car with the bleeding player left for the hospital. Heavy rain came that Sunday night and by the next day all residue of blood had been washed from what was left of the ice and the first season of US bandy.