jack crawford: the captain, the headgear, the hairline
Born on a Thursday of this date in 1916, defenceman Johnny (a.k.a. Jack) Crawford played 13 seasons of hatted hockey for the Boston Bruins, contributing to two of their Stanley Cup championships, in 1939 and ’41. Dublin, Ontario, is where he’s from, in the southwest of the province, on the road to Lake Huron: Howie Morenz (and Alice Munro) country. Crawford died in 1973 at the age of 56.
He served as the Bruins’ team captain, though just a for a single campaign, 1945-46, and not, as the Bruins themselves still seem to think, for four seasons. I’ve been on a bit of a crusade about this and other oversights in the team’s accounting of its own captains, as you may know, having read about it (maybe) here and/or here. (Though maybe not.) The list of the team’s actual early-era captains is here.
Others, like Bruin historian Kevin Vautour, have been making the case for year. Almost two years after I first wrote about it … nothing has changed, Bruinswise. The team still doesn’t want to talk about the facts of their past. The word is getting out despite the team’s puzzling persistence in pretending that Bobby Bauer, Eddie Shore et al. never captained Boston. Last fall, dogged to the end, I shared the evidence with the people at Hockey Reference, the go-to non-league resource for NHL statistics. Having considered what the Bruins won’t, they duly adjusted their online page. (That’s here.)
There’s more historical grist for the mill, meanwhile, in a new and comprehensive book by Burlington, Ontario, historian Jeff Miclash. In its lavishly illustrated game-by-game study of the team from 1929 through 1939, Total Bruins has the goods on many of the missing captains, along with a wealth of other detail and drama.
But back to Jack Crawford. He has featured elsewhere in these Puckstruck pages before, with focusses on both his helmet (he was an early adopter) and on the related question of, well, what was beneath it.
In a pair of 2018 posts (here and here), I picked up on the question of why Crawford donned the helmet in the first place. A Boston Globe story from 1938, when he was a Bruins rookie, told this tale:
As I noted in 2018, Crawford himself is quoted (though with no source provided) in Glenn Weir, Jeff Chapman, and Travis Weir’s 1999 book Ultimate Hockey, where he substantiates the original Globe story. “When I played football as a teenager for St. Mike’s,” Crawford said there, “the paint would peel off inside of my helmet and the doctors say that some chemical in the paint triggered the skin infection that caused all of my hair to fall out over the years.”
If that confirmation needs re-confirming, I can report on the e-mail I received this summer from Jack Crawford’s granddaughter. Jennifer Swaylik is the daughter of Susan (Crawford) Hassett, the youngest of Crawford’s four children, and it’s with Jennifer’s leave that I’m sharing what the family understands to be true about the former Bruin captain’s helmet and hairline.
“My grandmother believed he had what we would now call alopecia,” Swaylik wrote. “He lost all of his hair as a late teen. It eventually grew back, but then fell out again, leaving thin patches until it fell out again, this time for good. He wore a helmet to cover it all at each stage. Any full head of hair you see in pictures was in between the final falling-out period or — eventually — a very nicely done hairpiece. Did the paint in his helmet at St Michael’s trigger something in his skin ? It was the thought at the time. They never knew for sure.”
(Top image: Tex Coulter, Boston Garden Sport News, December 17, 1961)
the kladno kid
Born on a Tuesday of this date in 1972, Jaromír Jágr is, it turns out, not actually ageless: he’s 49 today. That said, he is still playing pro hockey, working the right wing for his hometown team in the Czech Republic, Rytíři Kladno, in the Chance Liga, the second-tier Czech league, a full 31 years after he made his NHL debut for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990. He’s played in 13 games this season, I’ve learned from the Kladno website, collecting a goal and three points. The player’s biography there is worth a browse. “If you are interested in a little about the privacy of Jaromír Jágr,” it tantalizes, “then know that his favourite dish is a Czech classic — chicken fillet with potato salad and banana ice cream as a dessert.” The youthful portrait here is by the artist who goes by the handle Gypsy Oak. Follow him on Twitter @gypsyoak or visit the Gypsy Oak Art Studio, here.
Full Deck: In his ongoing series “Peinture canadienne,” Quebec City artist Marc-Antoine K. Phaneuf has been arranging hockey cards to mirror the patterns and tendencies of Canadian abstract painting from the 1940s and ’50s. The installation pictured here was on show earlier this year at the Art Gallery of Windsor (Ontario) as part of the exhibition Power Play: Hockey in Canadian Contemporary Art. An assortment of some 3000 cards, it pays tribute to the scale and colour and verve of Jean-Paul Riopelle’s work, framing (as visitors to the Windsor show might have read at the show) “the faces of hockey’s past, moments of hyper-masculinity, elaborate styles of facial hair, stereotypical hockey helmet hairstyles, and action-filled facial expressions.” The work, curators proposed, “is both an homage to the history of hockey’s mass production in popular culture as well as a tribute to the speed of the game. Instead of overlapping thick impasto brushstrokes on a canvas, Phaneuf layers hockey cards onto a white wall to resemble the speed and ephemerality of gestural painting.”
(Images: Stephen Smith)