MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A Minnesota father and son who won Olympic gold medals 20 years apart want the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto to return their Olympic jerseys, but the organization claims it now owns the jerseys.
Bill Christian played on the 1960 gold-winning U.S. Olympic hockey team. His son, Dave Christian of Moorhead, was part of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. team that won Olympic gold.
The origin of the dispute goes back 30 years, WCCO-TV reported Thursday night. In 1981, Bill Christian got a call from Hockey Hall of Fame officials who wanted to display both Christians' jerseys, which were hanging in a closet at Bill Christian's home in Warroad.
Bill Christian said he believed he was only loaning the jerseys, "never dreaming they would be gone forever." But the Hall of Fame has since told the Christians the jerseys now belong to the Hall.
Curator Phil Pritchard told WCCO that the Hall contends the jerseys were donated in 1981, "in a legally effective manner and they are now the property of the Hockey Hall of Fame."
At the center of the dispute is a 1981 letter from the Hockey Hall of Fame to Bill Christian thanking him for "the donation" of the jerseys. That year, he was busy running the Christian Brothers hockey stick company in Warroad. He 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," he said.
Dave Christian said it was a mistake not to question the wording of the letter.
"My dad is not an attorney," he said.
At the time his father sent the jerseys to the Hall, Dave Christian was just beginning his 15-year career with the NHL. He said 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," Dave Christian told WCCO.
For the past six months, the father and son have been trying to get the jerseys returned. Bill Christian said it would be nice to get his jersey back "before something happens to me."
"I would like to pass on those jerseys to my children," Dave Christian said.
The Hall in Canada - which has no connection to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth - has sent the Christians a letter saying it is ready to fight a legal battle over the jerseys, WCCO reported.
While Bill Christian said he thinks it's wrong for the Hall to threaten a legal battle, he added, "We are going to fight for them."
Whatever happens, the Christians know that whatever they did in those Team USA jerseys can never be taken away.
"Where the jerseys are, where they hang, where they are displayed won't change the outcome," Dave Christian said.
--- (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)