What A Diff’rence A Year Makes: Blackhawks History 1931-36

Blackhawks History Links

1926-31 | 1931-36 | 1936-41 | 1941-46

Last time, the Black Hawks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1931, only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens.

How would the team attempt to come back from that defeat? Read on.

1931-32 season


Before the season began, the NHL would increase the number of games played during the season from 44 to 48.

Ty Arbour would depart from the Black Hawks at the end of last season to join the Buffalo Bisons of the IHL. Cy Wentworth, the Game 3 overtime hero for the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals the previous year, would be tapped as the new captain.

The Black Hawks thanked Dick Irvin for getting them to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history by not bringing him back the next season. Instead, the team went back to Bill Tobin, the team’s president who also coached the team at the end of the 1929-30 season. Irvin wasn’t unemployed for long, though, as he would be hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs six games into their season. This would have unintended consequences for the Black Hawks later on.

The Black Hawks would finish under .500 again, but with an 18-19-11 record, that was good enough to finish second in the American Division and a third consecutive playoff berth.

Charlie Gardiner would win the Vezina Trophy this year for allowing the fewest goals in the NHL, with a 1.85 GAA. He would be named to the First All-Star Team for the second consecutive season.

In the playoffs, the Black Hawks would face none other than Irvin’s Toronto Maple Leafs in a two game, total goal series. After winning the first game 1-0, the Black Hawks would fall to the Leafs in the second game 6-1, ending their postseason by a total score of 6-2.

By the way, the Maple Leafs would go on to win the Stanley Cup that year.

1932-33 season

Another season, another new head coach. This time, it was Emil Iverson, former coach of the University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers, who would be tapped to lead the team. Helge Bostrom would be tapped as captain of this year’s team despite only playing 18 games as a Black Hawk. He would spend more time as a member of the St. Paul Greyhounds/Tulsa Oilers organization in the American Hockey Association (which had reverted to minor-league status and affiliated with the NHL).

For the first three home games of the season, the Black Hawks would play back at Chicago Coliseum. Another dispute between Chicago Stadium owners and the team would lock them out of their arena for a second time. The issue would be quickly resolved, and the team returned to the Stadium in December 1932. (The final Black Hawks game at Chicago Coliseum was a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on November 20, 1932.)

Buoyed by such stability and leadership, the Black Hawks would stumble to a 8-7-6 start, after which Iverson was fired.

Godfrey Matheson was then brought in as the new head coach. He got the job after he met Frederic McLaughlin on the train and impressed McLaughlin with his hockey knowledge. (No. Really.) He attempted to instill a “whistle system” for coaching — one whistle to shoot, two to check, and so on.

He was fired after two losses.

The Black Hawks would then turn to Tommy Gorman, the former head coach and GM of the original Ottawa Senators who had led that team to three Stanley Cups. The team would sputter to an 8-11-6 record, with 88 goals for the entire year — an NHL low. This put them in the basement of the American Division and out of the playoffs for the first time since 1929.

During this season, Charlie Gardiner developed a tonsil infection, only making his illness public on December 23, 1932. He would play the next night against the Maple Leafs and made 55 saves to win the game for the Black Hawks by a 2-1 score. It was such an impressive game that the league president, Frank Calder, called to congratulate him. However, he collapsed in between periods with a fever of over 100 degrees and would go to the hospital after the game.

Despite this, he would have another good season in net, with a final GAA of 2.01. He was named to the Second All-Star Team.

1933-34 season

Another season, another new head… wait a minute, no. Tommy Gorman was actually brought back as head coach. This is the first time in Black Hawks history that a head coach would be retained after the previous season. Charlie Gardiner was unanimously elected captain by his teammates.

After last season’s terrible team performance, there was nowhere for the Black Hawks to go but up. And up they went; despite only scoring 88 goals this season, they would only give up 83 goals — a league record. This would be due in no small part to Gardiner, who kept up his strong play even as his health deteriorated.

In January 1934, Gardiner would experience his first seizure while on the train back to Chicago from a game. He experienced extreme pain from his throat that flowed through the rest of his body, including, notably, his kidneys. After telling Gorman that he was fine, he woke up the next morning not able to see; black spots obscured his vision.

On February 14, 1934, Gardiner played in the very first NHL all-star game between NHL all-stars and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The game was a benefit for Ace Bailey, whose career was ended earlier that season by a devastating hit from behind that fractured his skull. The All-Stars would lose to the Maple Leafs 7-3.

With a 20-17-11 record, the team would rank second in the American Division, earning a playoff berth. Gardiner would win his second Vezina Trophy at the end of the season, setting a club record with a 1.63 GAA. He would also be named to the First All-Star Team along with defenseman Lionel Conacher.

Charlie Gardiner with his second Vezina Trophy.

The team would take on the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs in a two game, total goal series. The Black Hawks won the first game 3-2 before playing the Canadiens to a 1-1 tie in the second game. The Black Hawks would move on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in their history.

The Black Hawks faced the Montreal Maroons next in another two game, total goal series. During the first game of the series on March 29, Gardiner managed to play through a 102 fever to shut out the Maroons, 3-0. He was named first star of the game. After beating the Maroons again 3-2, they moved onto the Stanley Cup Finals, facing the Detroit Red Wings… the team recently bought by none other than James E. Norris. The Black Hawks would win the first two games before dropping the third 5-2.

The fourth game on April 10 would go into a scoreless double overtime before Mush March scored at 10:05 of the second overtime to win the Stanley Cup for the Black Hawks.

9 Jack Leswick 11 Tom Cook
12 Elwyn “Doc” Romnes 15 Don McFadyen
4 John Sheppard 5 Harold “Mush” March
7 Rosie “Lolo” Couture 8 Paul Thompson
10 Bill Kendall 11 LeRoy Goldsworthy
14 John Gottselig1
2 Clarence “Taffy” Abel 3 Lionel Conacher2
16 Louis Trudel 17 Art Coulter
18 Roger Jenkins
1 Charlie Gardiner (Captain) Joe Starke3
Frederic McLaughlin (owner/GM) Tommy Gorman (coach)
Eddie Froelich (trainer) Bill Tobin (president)
1 First Russian-born player to win the Stanley Cup (born in Odessa, then of the Russian Empire, currently in Ukraine); he emigrated to Canada as a child
2 Misspelled as T. Conacher
3 According to the NHL, he never played in a single game.

Gardiner is still the only goalie-captain to win a Stanley Cup. During the Stanley Cup parade, defenseman Roger Jenkins carted him around Chicago’s business district in a wheelbarrow, fulfilling a pre-playoff bet.

The team’s celebration was cut short during the offseason. Ten days after the team won the Cup, Gorman would resign from the team after a dispute with McLaughlin and left for the Montreal Maroons.

Gardiner was leaving for a singing lesson in June 1934 when he collapsed. The two-time Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup winner died on June 13, 1934 of a brain hemorrhage caused by the tonsil infection.

He was 29 years old.

1934-35 season

Already rocked by the departure of their head coach and the sudden death of their beloved captain, the Black Hawks were then dealt another blow. A blockbuster trade sent Lionel Conacher, Roger Jenkins, and LeRoy Goldsworthy to the Montreal Canadiens. In exchange, the Canadiens sent Lorne Chabot, Howie Morenz, and Marty Burke to Chicago. Clem Loughlin was appointed head coach. The captaincy was left vacant.

The Black Hawks rebounded from offseason adversity, earning 57 points with a 26-17-5 record, setting a team record. Morenz greatly bolstered the offense, also setting a team record with 26 assists (a career high). Lorne Chabot took over in goal and earn his only Vezina Trophy, allowing a league low 88 goals and a 1.88 GAA.

Chabot was also the first NHL goaltender on the cover of Time Magazine on February 11, 1935. He would be named to the First All-Star Team that year.

The Black Hawks would face Gorman’s Montreal Maroons in the first round of the playoffs that year. After playing to a scoreless tie in the first game, the second game would go into overtime before the Maroons scored. Thus, for the second time, the Black Hawks would lose in the first round to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions… who happened to be led by their former coach.

1935-36 season

After the disappointing previous season, the Black Hawks would appoint Johnny Gottselig as captain while retaining Clem Loughlin as head coach.

The team would fall to third in the tightly-contested American Division with a 21-19-8 record, tying both the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers in total points, with 50. Boston ended up in second place because they had the greatest number of wins, with 22. The Black Hawks ended up in third (and the final playoff spot) because they had two more wins than the Rangers.

In the middle of the season, the Black Hawks would send Howie Morenz and Arthur Coulter to the New York Rangers in exchange for Earl Siebert and Glen Brydson. Siebert would later be named to the Second All-Star Team.

Doc Romnes had a team high 25 assists and would win the Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player — the first Lady Byng for a Black Hawk.

The team went with rookie goaltender Mark Karakas after Chabot was injured before the start of the regular season. Karakas was the NHL’s first American-born and trained goalie. After four wins, with three shutouts, in his first four starts, he was made starting goaltender over Chabot (who was traded to the Montreal Maroons). Karakas posted a 1.85 GAA, good enough for second in the league. After the end of the regular season, he was awarded the Rookie of the Year (and retroactively awarded the Calder Trophy after that award was established in the 1937-38 season). He was the first Black Hawk to win this award.

The Black Hawks would face the New York Americans in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in a two-game, total goal series. Unfortunately, the Americans would jump ahead after winning their first game 3-0. The Black Hawks would win the second game 5-4, but the Americans would move on with a total goal sum of 7-5.

Two seasons after winning the Stanley Cup, the Black Hawks would be bounced in the first round in two consecutive playoff appearances.

How would the Black Hawks get back to the promised land? Check in on Monday on RoD!

Blackhawks History Links

1926-31 | 1931-36 | 1936-41 | 1941-46


4 thoughts on “What A Diff’rence A Year Makes: Blackhawks History 1931-36

  1. Jill

    “Two seasons after winning the Stanley Cup, the Black Hawks would be bounced in the first round in two consecutive playoff appearances.”

    Gee, I wonder what that’s like? Seems to be our MO!


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