training camp, 1940: all aboard for hibbing

Slow Train Going: Ready to board the train for Hibbing, Minnesota, members of the 1940-41 Black Hawks doff their hats at Chicago’s North Western Station. From left, they are: Bill Thoms, Pep Kelly, Earl Seibert, Johnny Gottselig, Jack Portland, Mush March, coach Paul Thompson, and trainer Eddie Froelich.

The Chicago Black Hawks went to Hibbing, Minnesota, for training camp in October of 1940, which is what they did in those years, having prepped for years, pre-seasonally, in Champaign, Illinois. Later, 1943, the Hawks would shift briefly to Minneapolis before giving up on Minnesota altogether in the fall ’45, when they took their training to Regina, in Saskatchewan. In ’40, second-year coach Paul Thompson was young, 33; two seasons earlier, he’d been manning the left wing for the Black Hawks, as he’d been doing since 1931. In ’38, coached by Bill Stewart, Chicago had won a surprising Stanley Cup. Aiming to repeat that feat, Thompson’s team convened in Minnesota three weeks ahead of their opening game of their 48-game regular-season schedule, a November 7 meeting with the New York Americans slated for Chicago Stadium.

Twenty-five players travelled to Hibbing. Those who didn’t accompany the coach on the train from Chicago came south from Winnipeg. Paul Goodman was the incumbent in goal, though the Hawks were excited by a young local prospect, too, Sam LoPresti. Defensive veterans Earl Seibert, Jack Portland, and Art Wiebe would be challenged by another Minnesotan, Eveleth’s own John Mariucci, and a recently graduated mining engineer from the University of Alberta, Dave MacKay. Returning forwards included Mush March, Johnny Gottselig, Phil Hergesheimer, and Doug Bentley. The latter’s brother, Max, was given a good chance of making the team, as was a young Winnipegger  by the name of Bill Mosienko.

Thompson was enthusiastic: to his mind, this team was shaping up to be “the most evenly balanced in Chicago history.” The team’s tempestuous owner was on the page when he blew in for a visit midway through camp. Never before, Major Frederic McLaughlin declared, had a team of his looked so good so early.

This despite the fact that the Hawks hardly skated the first week of the pre-season. The ice was iffy in Hibbing that October — what there was of it. This despite the fact that the Hawks hardly skated the first week of the pre-season. The ice was iffy in Hibbing that October — what there was of it. The crew at Memorial Arena was no doubt doing its best to get a freeze on for the hockey players, but they had their troubles that first week. Five days into camp the Hawks still hadn’t seen a serviceable surface. Thompson curtailed Wednesday’s drills before they really got going: “five minutes of skating,” the Canadian Press reported, had worn the ice down to the floor.” The players took to the outdoors, where they kept themselves busy with a little road work, a little golf. Wednesday saw Mush March score a hole-in-one on the Hibbing course’s 190-yard seventh hole. He’d been prepping all summer long, you could say: March had spent the summer as a club pro in Valparaiso, Indiana.

By Thursday, the coach’s patience was almost at its end: if the Hibbing rink couldn’t get it together by Friday, he’d take his team and head west for 500 miles, to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where former Chicago defenceman Taffy Abel managed the rink.

Friday, with the team packed and ready to go, Hibbing’s ice-makers came through, and the Hawks skated for the first time with sticks and pucks. “The frozen surface stood up under two 90-minute tests,” the CP noted; “jubilation was rampant.” Art Wiebe was the season’s first casualty, suffering a gash over the right eye along with what the CP termed “a slight brain concussion.” No worries, said coach Thompson: he’d be back in action next day.

The second week of camp, the ice was fine. Monday 1,000 spectators showed up to watch Chicago’s first open scrimmage. Coach Thompson played referee, “allowing some fouls to pass unnoticed, but … quick to stop play on offsides.” It was 19 minutes before anyone could score, with Johnny Gottselig beating Paul Goodman.

As planned, the Hawks decamped the following Monday for St. Paul. They had another week of drills ahead of them there, along with a series of exhibition games against the local American Hockey Association Saints. Those were played, eventually: when the Black Hawks first arrived in St. Paul that vexed pre-season, they learned that the refrigeration plant had broken down, and that the ice wouldn’t be ready to receive them for another day or two.

 

black hawks at training camp, 1929: wrapped up in woolen sweaters and trunks of hockey

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Field Force: The Chicago Black Hawks on the Notre Dame field, October 25, 1929, lending an ear to new coach Tom Shaughnessy. Back row (from left): Assistant trainer Hayden, Johnny Gottselig, Ralph Taylor, Cy Wentworth, Frank Ingram, Charlie Gardiner, coach Dick Irvin, Stew Adams, trainer Tom Dyer. Front row: Vic Ripley, Tom Cook, Ty Arbour, Lolo Couture, Art Somers, Bobby Burns, Earl Miller, Mush March.

The Chicago Black Hawks shuffled through coaches after the coffee baron Major Frederic McLaughlin bought them into the NHL for the 1926-27 season. When Tom Shaughnessy’s turn came up in the spring of 1929, he was the fifth man to take the job. He wasn’t like the rest, all of whom were Canadians, all of who had played the game at the highest level (three of them ended up in the Hall of Fame). Shaughnessy was American-born, a Chicago lawyer, and the hockey he’d played was back in college at Notre Dame, though he was active, too, in Chicago’s amateur leagues. He’d played Fighting Irish football, too, as a teammate of the legendary Knute Rockne.

And maybe he was just what the Black Hawks needed. They’d finished each of the last two seasons sunken down at the bottom of the ten-team league. And Shaughnessy did have a plan, which he put into motion in early October of 1929 when he took his team, 15 players strong, for 12 days of pre-season training on the football fields of his alma mater at South Bend, Indiana. For an assistant he had Dick Irvin, just retired as a player, who’d also coached the Hawks from the ice at the end of the 1928-29 campaign. To crack the whip, the new boss looked to trainer Tom Dyer, a former British Army sergeant-major.

American press reports were only too pleased to declare Shaughnessy’s innovations that October, one of which was said to be the notion of putting hockey players under “military discipline” — even though Conn Smythe had his Leafs in Toronto under command of Corporal Joe Coyne a year earlier.

Among the Hawks at Notre Dame were veterans Cy Wentworth, Mush March, Johnny Gottselig, and goaltender Charlie Gardiner. Newcomers included Tom Cook, Taffy Abel, Helge Bostrom. Only captain Duke Dukowski was absent — he’d stayed back home to tend to his wife’s illness.

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Blocking Party: Black Hawks at work in South Bend. From left, Taffy Abel, Ralph Taylor, Cy Wentworth, Ty Arbour, Johnny Gottselig.

Harland Rohm was on hand to report on the preparatory proceedings for The Chicago Tribune. The labour was hard, he said, but the hockey players had reported in fair to good condition. “The weight sheet for the first five days shows no man to have lost more than two pounds and several of them have put on a pound or two.”

The camp was ice-free: the daily routine featured a three-hour field workout, with calisthenics, medicine balls, wind sprints. “A few dashes the length of the field and the boys are dropping on the grass, panting for breath — which isn’t unnatural, considering they’re wrapped up in woolen sweaters and trunks of hockey.”

Later, in the afternoon, they took to the softball diamond where two teams — Dick Irvin’s Shadows and Shaughnessy’s Plugs — vied for a $50 prize put up by coach Shaughnessy. (Irvin’s team won the first game 22-21 and the second 5-2, with Lolo Couture and Mush March distinguishing themselves.)

After lunch, those who wanted to golf headed out to the green (Ralph Taylor and Vic Ripley were among the keenest), while the rest of the team went for a walk.

Supper was at 7, followed by “a roundtable conference on hockey plays and rules” and lights out at 11.

Harland Rohm proved to be a serious scout:

Moving over to the shower, a casual server gets a surprise. Frank Ingram, rookie wing from St. Paul, weighs 172 pounds and has a physique a Big Ten coach would like to see among his candidates for back field. Art Somers, another rookie, a center from Vancouver, is like him, only twenty pounds lighter. Big Abel, who always looks fat when dressed, hasn’t a sign of any fat around his waist and appears ready to step on the ice. He weighs 224 now and is usually over 220 in playing condition.

Finishing up in Indiana, the team entrained for Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they started the season’s exhibition schedule against the local Oilers, champions of the American Association. Once the regular season got underway in November, Shaughnessy had his new and improved Black Hawks ascending the NHL standings. By the new year, he had them sitting second in the American Division, just back of the mighty Boston Bruins.

When the two teams met in mid-January, Chicago became the only team to beat the Bruins twice. Dousing the joy of victory somewhat was the news, next day, that Tom Shaughnessy was resigning. The official word was that he needed to devote more time to his law practice, but I’m going to venture here that there more to it than that, and that it just might have been that he and Major McLaughlin didn’t see eye to eye.

What we do know is that for the next several years Shaughnessy laid steady siege to the Major’s hockey dominion in Chicago. In the summer of 1930, he bought the American Hokey Association’s Minneapolis franchise for $60,000 and talked it about moving it west to the Lake Michigan shore. With James Norris’ backing, he also looked into buying the beleaguered Ottawa Senators and shifting them. McLaughlin was able to veto that, though Shaughnessy did eventually fall in with the upstart American Hockey League and get a team, the Shamrocks, into Chicago Stadium. As Bruce Kidd writes in The Struggle For Canadian Sport (1996), the Shamrocks actually outdrew the Black Hawks in 1931.

That was the year the AHL challenged the NHL for the Stanley Cup and the NHL refused, declaring they’d prefer to forfeit than face the “outlaws.” J. Andrew Ross has a full and fascinating account of this in his book Joining The Clubs (2015), which I recommend. The short version: the AHL and Tom Shaughnessy lost, and the league disbanded.

the nosebleeds

Overview: From up in the gallery, the gods, the nosebleeds in New York’s third Madison Square Garden, the one Tex Rickard built, here’s the view you’d have looking down nearly 80 years ago on the Rangers doing battle with the Chicago Black Hawks. Madison Square is a guess — the loudspeaker over centre ice looks like the one they had there in 1937. That’s the date on the photograph, November 13, 1937. Of course, Chicago was in Toronto that night, and this isn’t Maple Leaf Gardens, so I’m taking the date as being that of publication rather than a proof of when the photograph was taken. November 11, 1937, Chicago was in New York, and they won, 3-1, in front of a crowd of 16,000: I think that’s the one we’re seeing. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m stuck all round it. The Hawks got a goal from Mush March that night, another two from Doc Romnes; Cecil Dillon scored for the Rangers. Mike Karakas was outstanding, I know from reading, in the Chicago goal; Dave Kerr, in the Ranger net, didn’t rate a mention. Ott Heller took a misconduct: he tapped referee Mickey Ion (said a hometown reporter) but Ion took it as a malign push.

Overview: From up in the gallery, the gods, the nosebleeds in New York’s third Madison Square Garden, the one Tex Rickard built, here’s the view you’d have looking down nearly 80 years ago on the Rangers doing battle with the Chicago Black Hawks. Madison Square is a guess — the loudspeaker over centre ice looks like the one they had there in 1937. That’s the date on the photograph, November 13, 1937. Of course, Chicago was in Toronto that night, and this isn’t Maple Leaf Gardens, so I’m taking the date as being that of publication rather than a proof of when the photograph was taken. November 11, 1937, Chicago was in New York, and they won, 3-1, in front of a crowd of 16,000: I think that’s the one we’re seeing. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m stuck all round it. The Hawks got a goal from Mush March that night, another two from Doc Romnes; Cecil Dillon scored for the Rangers. Mike Karakas was outstanding, I know from reading, in the Chicago goal; Dave Kerr, in the Ranger net, didn’t rate a mention. Ott Heller took a misconduct: he tapped referee Mickey Ion (said a hometown reporter) but Ion took it as a malign push.

toe pick

Stadium Welcome: Chicago defenceman Earl Seibert (rear) takes out Montreal's Toe Blake (6) while winger Mush March moves on in pursuit of pucks. The game, layer at Chicago's Stadium in January of 1944, ended in a 1-1 tie. Three months later, when the teams met in the Stanley Cup Finals, Canadiens prevailed, with emphasis, sweeping the Black Hawks four games to none.

Stadium Welcome: Chicago defenceman Earl Seibert (rear) takes out Montreal captain Toe Blake (6) while winger Mush March moves on in pursuit of pucks. The game, layer at Chicago’s Stadium in January of 1944, ended in a 1-1 tie. Three months later, when the teams met in the Stanley Cup Finals, Canadiens prevailed, with emphasis, sweeping the Black Hawks four games to none.

hockey players in hospital beds: most of the 1938 chicago black hawks

chi abed 11. Maybe there’s more impressively populated photograph of hockey players abed in hospital, but I doubt it. The patients, from left, are Cully Dahlstrom, Mush March, Louie Trudel, Doc Romnes, Carl Voss, Johnny Gottselig, and Art Wiebe, members all of the 1937-38 Chicago Black Hawks. Their injuries, respectively, were to the: leg, groin, scalp, nose, leg, leg, and forehead.

2. Blame Red Horner.

3. That’s what Chicago did. Not that he did all the damage, just a lot of it, especially to Doc Romnes, who vowed revenge (apparently) and (verifiably) took it. April of ’38 this was, when the Leafs and Black Hawks were in the Finals, playing for the Stanley Cup.

4. The first two games were in Toronto. The Leafs, who’d swept by the Boston Bruins in the semi-finals, had finished 20 points ahead of Chicago in the season standings. Chicago had surprised Montreal and the New York Americans in the playoffs: they were being called “the Cinderella boys.” The Chicago Tribune said that the entire club radiated confidence.

5. There was a goalie kerfuffle that I’m not really going to get into here. Suffice to say Chicago’s regular goaltender was injured and a man whom the Black Hawks didn’t want guarding their net was kind of forced on them and then when he won the first game, that was the end of it, the NHL wouldn’t let him play for them again. Alfie Moore. The score was 2-1.

6. The second game Toronto won, 5-1. A drubbing, The Winnipeg Tribune called it; local newspapers were pleased. Chicago had a different goaltender, Paul Goodman, due to the continuing situation that you’ll have to look up elsewhere. What’s important to say here is that several Hawks were hurt in this game, including Art Wiebe (cut in the head by a teammate’s stick while trying to dodge a flying puck as he sat on the bench), Johnny Gottselig (slashed on the foot), and (cut in the head by high sticks) Louis Trudel (six stitches) Roger Jenkins (two), and Alex Levinsky (two). Mush Marsh’s pre-existing aching groin kept him out of the game altogether, joining Hawk goalie Mike Karakas, whose toe was fractured, causing the whole goaltender of which we’ll continue not to speak.

7. According to the Chicago papers, Toronto captain Red Horner was the high-sticker-in-chief; he also broke Doc Romnes’ nose.

8. George Strickler from The Chicago Tribune wrote that bitter feelings were engendered by (1) the goaltender hubbub that probably would have been worth explaining; (2) lax officiating (looking at you, Ag Smith and Bert McCaffrey) as well as (3):

It was evident from the opening faceoff that the favored Leafs, aroused by the publicity resulting from Tuesday’s unexpected defeat were intent on making the beating physical as well as official. They checked viciously and needlessly and completely mastered the Hawks until the latter began retaliating in kind.

9. In 1962, The Chicago Sunday Tribune recalled the brutality of the game. Here’s what Ted Damata wrote about Romnes, who had, it’s true, won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1936:

Elwyn Romnes, who looked and acted so much like a meek professor that the players nicknamed him Doc.

10. Contemporary accounts don’t dwell too much on what Horner did to Romnes. Mostly what they say is that the former broke the latter’s nose, and this forced Romnes from the game in the second period. Subsequent reports multiply the damage: the nose was apparently broken in three places.

11. Stan and Shirley Fischler, in Who’s Who In Hockey (2003): Horner rapped Romnes across the face. A contemporary report from the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Telegraph (presumably an AP report) attributes the damage to a Horner body check. Whereas Mark Stewart, in The Chicago Blackhawks (2009) seems to suggest the wound was self-inflicted: Romnes broke his nose.

That echoes the blamelessness that Charles Coleman enshrined in The Trail of the Stanley Cup (1969): Romnes emerged from a fracas with a broken nose.

Andrew Podnieks, in Players: The Ultimate A—Z Guide To Everyone Who Has Ever Played in the NHL (2003): his nose was smashed by a punch from Red Horner.

Kevin Allen tells us that it was a Horner butt-end that did the damage. This is in “Then Wayne Said to Mario. . .”: The Best Stanley Cup Stories Ever Told (2009).

12. Horner wasn’t penalized for whatever it was he did, though he did take tripping minor in the second. Still, according to Globe and Mail Sports Editor Tommy Munns, the referees were “stricter than any other pair in any other playoff game.” NHL President Frank Calder had met with Smith and McCaffrey before the game, telling them (Munns speculated) “to get away from the practice of letting almost everything go.” Continue reading

two for tangling

mush + milt 1Fifth-place Boston was trying to catch fourth-place Montreal that Thursday night in December of 1950, and by beating third-place Chicago, they pulled themselves two points closer. I’m not going to pretend: the thrills were few. Chicago played “in a dull fashion” (UPI) and the crowd that saw them was the smallest the Stadium had seen since 1935, just 6,297. Boston’s Vic Lynn scored the winning goal in the third period while Chicago’s defenders took a proverbial nap. Skating unimpeded, he found himself alone in front of goaltender Harry Lumley. UPI: “The goalie, too, appeared not to be prepared and the puck soared past him.”

The home team got owly in the third. “There were several fights in the final period resulting from the Hawks’ general frustration at not being able to score, but no one was hurt.” Above, that’s the Bruins’ Milt Schmidt, the man who’d end up winning the Hart Trophy that year as NHL MVP, atop the Black Hawks’ Pete Babando. Doing their best to detangle the situation are linesmen Mush March (left) and George Hayes (right).