mike ilyich keenan

Defending KHL champions Metallurg Magnitogorsk launch their new season today with a game against Barys Astana. In April, under coach Mike Keenan, Metallurg won the team’s first Gagarin Cup. Keenan is both the first North American coach to win a KHL title and the first coach to have raised both a Gagarin and a Stanley Cup in his career. Special achievements come with special privileges — such as, I guess, dressing up as Vladimir Lenin for this new Metallurg promotional video.

maintenance day

hawksfixersUpkeep: “The Hawks have their own small hospital in the Stadium,” The Chicago Tribune advised its readers in January of 1938. On this visit, patients included (left to right) Johnny Gottselig, in for treatment on a swollen knee; Pete Palangio, sore of shoulder; and Doc Romnes, getting his stitches checked by Chicago team physician Dr. R. W. Meacham (a.k.a. Dr. Mayhem). That’s trainer Ed Froelich spinning the dials on the diathermy machine. The Hawks had been in a bit of a slump and before their next game, coach Bill Stewart saw fit to revamp his line-up. Palangio was part of that, ending up  St. Louis of the minor-league AHA. The Hawks who stuck around went on to beat Montreal’s Maroons 1-0 on a Gottselig goal. Things started looking up after that, all the way through to April, when Chicago beat Toronto to win the Stanley Cup. Palangio was back for that; as Andrew Podnieks points out, he even got his name engraved twice on the Cup that year. Well, more or less: the first time it’s spelled Palagio, with no first name attached.

hat band

hull hats

Top Hat: You may have missed the hat-themed party they threw for Bobby Hull in Chicago that February in 1969, but never mind: details — and a list of selected hats — are here. Above, the big Black Hawk left winger shares smiles with Chicago team president William Wirtz (left, in the toreador’s montera) and (right) party host and restaurateur Ike Sewell. (Photo: Edward Feeney)

public enemy no. 29

Pete Kay

When they are irked or excited, the hockey clan here fires a wide variety of missiles onto the ice, ranging from cabbages, card decks and heated pennies, to a brassiere which floated down from the stadium heights recently.

• Associated Press, Chicago, February 4, 1946

This we know: the Boston Bruins were in town that night, February 3, 1946, a Sunday, to play the hometown Black Hawks.

Also this: at some point a fan high up in the gallery seats let go an empty whisky bottle from on high that dropped and dropped until it found Joseph Fusco’s head. He was another fan, sitting rinkside. I think it’s fair to say that he was caught unawares. He was knocked unconscious, certainly, and when he revived he found that his scalp was split open. Attendants took him away for first aid. The AP: “His departure still left 17,362 fans to cheer a 3-1 Hawk victory.”

Black Hawks president Bill Tobin offered a $250 reward to anyone who could identify the bottle-tosser. He was pleased to hear reports, a few days later, of Fusco’s recovery. He was less happy with the Chicago policemen assigned to patrol the upper balconies: they hadn’t evicted a single miscreant from the rink in the Black Hawks’ 16 home games to date. “It is pointed out,” Edward Burns wrote in The Chicago Tribune,

that standing up in a crowd of 18,000 and throwing a bottle or other missile, is not as subtle a crime as many that have been baffling Chicago police. The only explanation of the zero showing of the police detail in the Stadium in the suppression of hoodlum nuisances, as well as gambling, is that lazy coppers who draw the assignments are hockey fans and usually have their eyes glued to the puck instead of the hoodlum element.

Wednesday the New York Rangers came to play. No word on whether Joseph Fusco was on hand, but at least one fan came to the rink prepared for the worst. That’s him here, above, in the photo; his name was Pete Kay. He was (so the caption a contemporary caption ran) taking

no chances of some Stadium balcony boozer saying, “Well, here’s mud in your eye!” and then conking customer below with empty bottle. Pete comes prepared with air raid helmet at last night’s hockey game, then glances up to see whether any “dead soldiers” are heading his way.

Fusco survived and, I guess, recovered. His name disappeared from the hockey columns as quickly as it had slipped into them. Is it possible that hockey-fan-Fusco was the same man as infamous-Capone-mobster-Fusco? Easy to believe it, if you’re willing to credit the slender circumstantial evidence. Exhibit A: supposing a well-heeled ganglander was a Hawks fan and did decide to take in a game at the Stadium, where else would such a prominent Chicago personality be sitting than right in the front rank? It works even better as poetry: big-time rumrunner gets conked (to borrow the AP’s word) by a whisky bottle falling from on high. That’s something you could make up, I guess, but would you?

Fusco was in his 20s when he went to see Al Capone at the Lexington Hotel suite that served as the mobster’s headquarters, and by the time he left he’d been hired as a beer bootlegger. That’s the story that’s told. By 1930, Fusco was listed as Public Enemy No. 29 by Chicago’s Crime Commission. (Capone, of course, headed the charts.) The following year, the papers identified Fusco as Capone’s second-in-command when both men (along with 67 others) were indicted by a federal grand jury for 5,000 violations of prohibition laws.

Post-prohibition, Fusco stuck with the booze, which is to say that he had majority interests in several breweries, including the Van Merritt; the Bohemian Wine and Liquor; and Joliet Citizens Brewing Co. He also headed up a tile and linoleum company.

In 1952 the Illinois liquor control commission heard evidence from six witnesses that Fusco’s reputation was — and I quote — bad.

That must have stung. It also posed a professional problem, since liquor licenses could be withheld from faulty characters. He appealed and got another hearing. This time, some 25 witnesses showed up to testify to his uprightness and integrity while another 200 friends sent in affidavits. There were aldermen and retired assistant attorneys-general, retired secret service agents, even a former chairman of the liquor commission. They all said he was an excellent fellow. Fusco, for his part, offered that Bishop Sheil had recently named him to helm the beer and liquor division of the Catholic Youth organization fund drive.

The commission thought it over. In the end, the vote went 2-1 in favour of renewing the licenses. “The majority opinion,” said The Chicago Tribune, “held in effect that Fusco had been of good reputation and character since 1934.”

At the initial hearing, the commission had heard about some of Fusco’s youthful adventures. He’d been indicted, for instance, on October 3, 1924, for prohibition violations involving 1,446 quarts of whisky. And in 1922 he’d been fined $50 for transporting 21 barrels of beer from Chicago to Lemont, Illinois.

Like the 1931 charges, the whisky rap had failed to stick. Arrested many times, never convicted: an obituary said that, in 1976, when he died in his Chicago hotel suite at the age of 74.

The list of his known aliases included: Joe Carey, Joseph Sayth, Jo Long, Joe Thompson, E.J. Thompson.

all zebra, and a leopard-patterned bedspread

keith's house 1

Keith Magnuson made his debut as an NHL defenceman in 1969 for a Chicago Black Hawks team that lined up Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, Pat Stapleton, Pit Martin, and Tony Esposito.

That’s Magnuson above, at home. On the domestic side, he found an apartment with fellow rookies Jim Wiste (a left winger) and Cliff Koroll (he played the right). All three were Saskatchewan-born, and before they got to the NHL, they’d all played together, too, at the University of Denver.

As rookies, on the ice, Wiste got into 26 games and notched eight assists. Koroll collected 18 goals and 37 points, while Magnuson had 24 assists (no goals) to go along with his NHL-leading 213 penalty minutes.

Vancouver claimed Wiste in the NHL’s expansion the following summer, so he moved out and: as the new season rolled around, Chicago reporters noted that the apartment previously known as “Bachelors III” was now “Bachelors II.”

Or — sorry, apartment is wrong. The proper terminology is contained in a Hawks’ profile that Robert Bradford wrote for The Chicago Tribune in December of 1970: Magnuson and Koroll inhabited an “ultramod pad on the outskirts of the city.”

Some of the glory of that space is apparent here. Judging by Bradford’s description, what we’re looking at here could be Koroll’s bedroom. With the stools and the bar, though? I think we have to accept that zebra-stripes ran rampant pad-wide, including into common areas like this one. A den, maybe? The real question, though, is whether the huge hockey stick on the wall with the sun rising over it (and the highway) clashes with a carpet so strongly suggestive of the savannah. But I don’t know whether that’s for us to say, one way or the other. Seems to have worked for Magnuson and his roommates. For us, the best, I think, we can do is simply to savour Bradford’s further description of what lies beyond this view:

In the Koroll-Magnuson living room there’s a black-and-white houndstooth couch; three contour chairs and a coffee table set in a sociable semi-circle in the bulge of a bay window; an off-white wall-to-wall carpet and a stereo unit mounted on flat, black walls. The halls are very white, and in Keith’s bedroom — among the “now” hints of flared, belled pants, blazer suits, buckle shoes and Wellington boots, as a traditional Swedish instinct for personal tidiness — is a large print of a leopard hanging above a leopard-patterned bedspread. (In Cliff Koroll’s room, it’s all zebra, more hi-fi and the apartment’s large TV set.)