The League At War: Blackhawks History 1941-46

Blackhawks History Links

1926-31 | 1931-36 | 1936-41 | 1941-46

Last time on Blackhawks History, the Black Hawks had won the Stanley Cup in 1938. After dropping to the bottom of the league in the 1938-39 season, the team returned to the playoffs. How would the team fare once the United States entered World War II?

Let’s continue on…

1941-42 season

Via classicauctions.net

The Black Hawks would retain Paul Thompson as their coach and Earl Seibert as their captain, assuring that the leadership would be stable another year. The team would then finish 22-23-3, just under .500 and good enough for fourth in the league. This was a team that really liked being at home, as they garnered 15 of their 22 victories at Chicago Stadium.

On December 9, 1941, the game against the Boston Bruins in Boston was delayed by 28 minutes as President Franklin Roosevelt declared that the United States had entered into war against Japan. This began the United States’ involvement in World War II.

Bill Thoms set club records with 30 assists and 45 points. Earl Seibert was named to the First All-Star Team at the end of the regular season, while Paul Thompson would be named to the Second All-Star Team as coach.

The team made their third consecutive postseason appearance and took on the Boston Bruins in a best of three series. After dropping the first game at the Stadium 2-1 in overtime, they came back to win the second game 4-0 in Boston. However, the Bruins gutted out a 3-2 win in the third game, sending the Blackhawks home.

1942-43 season

Via icehockey.wikia.com

The NHL lost another team this year as the Brooklyn Americans folded before the season began, leaving the league with six teams. Thus began the “Original Six” era of the NHL. The league would also increase the number of games played from 48 to 50.

In the offseason, goaltender Sam LoPresti enlisted in the army, so the team acquired Bill Gardiner. He would post 17 wins and a 3.58 GAA. There would be a bigger blow to the Black Hawks, however, as Frederic McLaughlin retired from the team he had managed since 1926. Bill Tobin, the team’s president, was hired as general manager. This would have dire consequences for the team down the road.

Due to wartime restrictions on travel, the NHL would stop playing overtimes during the regular season to decide tied games. The Black Hawks would play against the New York Rangers in the last regular season overtime game on November 10, 1942. Overtime would not return to the league until the 1983-84 season.

Doug Bentley, who was named captain, would become the first Black Hawk to lead the league in scoring, setting team records with 33 goals and 73 points, while his younger brother Max would set another team record with 44 assists. Max Bentley would also win the Lady Byng Trophy for being the league’s most gentlemanly player for recording 70 points while only getting one two-minute minor the entire season.

The Bentleys.

Along with oldest brother Reg, the Bentleys formed the first all-brother line in the NHL on January 1, 1943. On January 3, Max and Doug would assist on Reg’s only NHL goal. It was the only time three family members recorded a goal and the two assists.

On February 4, 1943, league president Frank Calder passed away from a heart attack after suffering two previous heart attacks on January 25 of that year. Former New York/Brooklyn Americans owner Red Dutton was chosen as the league’s interim president.

The team would finish just under .500 yet again, with a 17-18-5 record. They would end up fifth in the league standings, missing the playoffs (by one point!) for the first time in four years.

1943-44 season

Via icehockey.wikia.com

The team would begin the year with both Thompson returning as head coach and Doug Bentley remaining captain of the team. Bentley would then break the team record for most points in a season, which he set the year before, with 77. He also led the league and set the Black Hawks record for most goals, with 38. He would end the year on the First All-Star Team with Seibert.

Meanwhile, Max Bentley joined the Canadian Infantry Corps. He would play with the Victoria Navy team briefly before playing the with the Calgary Currie Army team in the Canadian military leagues.

Red Hamill also left the team to join the war effort.

The Black Hawks acquired Clint Smith during the offseason, and he immediately responded to his new surroundings, setting a club record with 49 assists. With only four minutes in penalties, Smith would win his second Lady Byng Trophy at the end of the season.

Hec Highton started in goal for the Black Hawks, but after putting up a 10-14-0 record and a GAA of 4.50, the team traded him an old friend — Mike Karakas, who had been playing for the Providence Reds of the American Hockey Association. Karakas then put together a 12-9-5 record (including three shutouts), giving the Black Hawks a 22-23-5 record. This was good enough for fourth place in the NHL, sliding the team into the last playoff spot.

Due to the downsizing of the league the year before, the number of rounds in the Stanley Cup Playoffs were reduced to two — the semi-finals and then the Stanley Cup finals.

In the semi-finals, the Black Hawks would face the Detroit Red Wings in a best-of-seven series. The team would beat the Red Wings 2-1 in the first game before losing 4-1 in the second. The Black Hawks would then go on a three-game tear, beating the Red Wings at Olympia Stadium to get to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1938.

Sadly, those would be the last wins the Black Hawks would get in the playoffs, as the Montreal Canadiens swept the team in their best-of-seven series to win the Stanley Cup.

1944-45 season

I was unable to find a team picture, so have this picture of a Black Hawks practice, instead. If you do have a team picture, please feel free to send it along.

The Black Hawks lost their captain and top scorer, Doug Bentley, as Canadian officials refused him entry into the United States after an exhibition game before the season began. He was then given permission to return to his family’s farm in Saskatchewan. In the meantime, he signed to play with the Laura Beavers of the Saskatchewan Intermediate Hockey League and won a championship with that team.

The Black Hawks would then appoint Clint Smith as their new captain.

After losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs 11-5 in their first game, Thompson would be fired as head coach and replaced by former captain Johnny Gottselig.

On December 17, 1944, longtime team owner McLaughlin died of a heart attack at the age of 67. Tobin would buy the team from McLaughlin’s estate with the help of a syndicate led by none other than Detroit Red Wings owner James E. Norris. Though it was Tobin’s name on the team’s paperwork, Norris and the syndicate would pull the strings behind the scenes for better part of the next decade.

The Black Hawks would trade Earl Seibert and Fido Purpur to the Red Wings in exchange for Don Grosso, Butch McDonald, and Cully Simon in the middle of the season. After Tobin bought the team, it was only a matter of time before Seibert was sent packing, since the two did not get along.

The team would struggle offensively during the year. Bill Mosienko and Clint Smith would lead the team with 28 goals and 31 assists, respectively. They would end up tying in points, with 54 apiece. Mosienko would win the Lady Byng Trophy this year and ended the season on the Second All-Star Team.

Mike Karakas would also end up on the Second All-Star Team that year after posting 12 wins and a 3.90 GAA, with four shutouts.

The team would end the season with a 13-30-7 record, “good” enough for 33 points — their lowest point total since 1938-39. They were only kept out of last place by the abysmal New York Rangers.

Needless to say, the team missed the playoffs this year.

1945-46 season

Via icehockey.wikia.com

Gottselig would be retained as head coach while hard-nosed defenseman John Mariucci would be named captain.

The biggest boost to the Black Hawks this year was the return of Doug Bentley, Max Bentley, and Red Hamill after the end of World War II. The Bentley brothers were then placed on a line with Mosienko. Because of their smaller stature and speed, they would be dubbed the “Pony Line” by the press.

The Pony Line

Max Bentley would score 31 goals and had 61 points for the season, an NHL high. Because of this, he would win the Hart Trophy for most valuable player at the end of the regular season. This was the first time a Black Hawk had won this award. He would also be named to the First All-Star Team that year. Mosienko would be named to the Second All-Star Team along with Coach Gottselig.

At one point during this season, the Black Hawks had rocketed to first place; however, the team would stumble when Doug Bentley went down with a knee injury on January 23. The Black Hawks would finish the season with a 23-20-7 record, good enough for third place in the league and a playoff spot.

The team would face the first-place Canadiens in the semi-finals, who were too much for the Black Hawks to handle. They were swept in four games.

Still, things had to be looking up for the Black Hawks, right? Well… come back on Friday and find out for yourself!

Blackhawks History Links

1926-31 | 1931-36 | 1936-41 | 1941-46

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