Pekka and Juhani: Their Migrant Story

In late August 1975, Pekka Rautakallio, his wife Arja, and their two-year-old son, stepped off a plane into Phoenix’s sweltering heat. During those weeks, temperature highs floated between 105F/40.5C to 107F/41.6C. Back in Pori, Finland, summer started turning into fall with highs around 57.5F/14.2C. The Rautakallios retrieved their luggage ready to start the upcoming Phoenix Roadrunners’ hockey season. When he stepped off the plane, Rautakallio became a migrant worker as a Roadrunner defenseman.

Excluding advances in transportation, Rautakallio’s story shared many aspects with European migrants of the early-1900s. At the turn of the twentieth century, steamship agents recruited peasants trumpeting America’s wealth. The agents often acted as auctioneers, creditors, and even loaned clothes. Furthermore, agents knew about jobs and wages of destinations. After recruiting a peasant, the agents tagged him, usually with a button, to ensure smooth flow through the pipeline to America (Wyman 1993, 15-31). Sports agents share many commonalities with their steamship counterparts.

In July 1975, Finnish star Juhani Wahlsten convinced Rautakallio and Lauri Mononen to travel to Phoenix. Herb Rudory, a Chicago-based sports agent, met them in Phoenix. Rudoy negotiated two-year contracts for Rautakallio and Lauri Mononen with the Phoenix RoadRunners*. At the contract signing party, Rudoy preened for the publicity shot (Arizona Republic 1975, 30).

Steamship agents of yore accompanied their recruits on part of their journey until passing them to the next link in the chain (Wyman 1993, 29). Waiting outside the airport, the Rautakallios found Roadrunners’ General Manager, Al Rollins, waiting for them. Effectively, Rudory handed them off.

Taking them from the airport, Rollins dropped the Rautakallios off at a motel to find housing, transportation, and other necessities. Rautakallio spoke limited English. At practice, teammate Cam Connor asked Rautakallio about his name. Rautakallio replied in bad English, “It means Iron Rocky”. Thus, Rautakallio earned his nickname, Rocky. Still in adjustment, they lived out of the motel. Unknown to the Rautakallios, Phoenix contained a thriving Finnish community centered around George and Helmi Anttila.

 After reading about a new Finnish hockey player, George tracked down the Rautakallios. George’s parents emigrated from Ranua, Finland in the early 1900s as immigrant laborers. George grew up in Michigan. In 1947, George and his wife, Helmi, moved to Phoenix due to health reasons. In 1953, the Finlandia Foundation opened a chapter in Phoenix. George was its first president and held the post for 23 years. Over the years, George assisted Finnish athletes and hobos. For promoting friendship between the United States and Finland, Finnish President Urho Kekkonen awarded George the Medal First Class with Gold Cross of the Order of the White Rose in December 1964 (Cooke 1970). George extended that helping hand to the Rautakallios.

 Anttila met Rautakallio in the Roadrunners’ office. From there, Anttila helped Rautakallio rent an apartment just a few blocks away on 17th Ave. Then, Anttila assisted them with getting furnishings and a car. When Mononen arrived in September 1975, Pekka already started informal training with Roadrunners’ coach, Sandy Hucul. While Mononen met the Anttilas, he received help from fellow Karelian living in Phoenix. Repeating history, both players relied upon the pre-existing community to help them transition.

The 1976/77 season added two more Finns to the Roadrunner roster, Seppo Repo (center) and Juhani Tamminen (left wing). With Mononen at right wing, these three Finns formed the Lappline because they originated from Lapland in northern Finland. The Lappline lived near each other on W. Octollio Rd. They lived so close that they would carpool to practice. Also, Rautakallio moved from 17th to 27th Ave. possibly to be close to the other Finns.

Ocotillo Rd and 27th Ave. 1979/2019 (Maricopa.gov)

Although Rautakallio’s English improved, the team declared Tamminen the official team interpreter. In the 70s, Finnish school experienced a systemic reform (Jaatinen 2014, 30). Reforming the schools included replacing German with English in the 1960s (Jaatinen, 39). As result, Rautakallio and the other Finns may have learned Latin and German, but only briefly exposed to English. Tamminen’s college offered a path to learning English not available to the other Finns.

On April 6, 1977, the Tamminen supplied the WHA Phoenix Roadrunners’ final win with three goals and an assist. The team’s 7-3 win against Indianapolis sealed the end of the team, but not the Finns. Tamminen and Repo finished the season with the Oklahoma Blazers. Rautakallio and Mononen returned to Finland. By the 1977/78 season, all Finns played for teams in the top Finnish league. In 1979, Rautakallio returned States-side to play for the NHL’s Atlanta Flames. He became the first Finn to play in an NHL all-star game.

Rautakallio Stats (hockeydb.com)

Tamminen Stats (hockeydb.com)

Migration stories rarely end with the accomplishment of a few successful migrants. For example, the US Visa office considered Rautakallios, Tamminen, and the other Finns to be nonimmigrants. Migrating for work does not equate to being an immigrant. Transient athletes acquired an H-1, exceptional ability, or an H-2, temporary worker, visas potentially impacting quotas until 1990. In 1990, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service created a new category, P, to separately cover nonimmigrant, professional athletes. And what of their impact.

Today, the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum still stands. Its economic impact is modest at best, but its cultural impact significant. It brought world class hockey to the desert. Its ice allowed Finns to demonstrate their hockey prowess for the NHL and the world. Finally, it kept winter sports alive for a young, Mexican-American named Auston Matthews to discover a passion for ice hockey. From San Ramon, California to Scottsdale, Az and now in Toronto, Matthews learned hockey from a Ukrainian who was Mexico’s director of ice hockey. All because of family connections to Mexico (Pinchevsky 2017). Matthews scored the most goals in the 2020/21 NHL season dominating the Rocket Richard race against Alex Ovechkin (Capitals) and Pasternack (Bruins). The circle completed as migrant worker Anttila assisted migrant Rautakallio who kept alive a migrant worker’s sport for migrant Matthews to excel.

*NOTE: This transaction was likely one of Rudoy’s first as an agent. By the 1980s, Rudoy improved how he handled players. Currently, Rudoy performs agent duties for NBA, NFL, and soccer (MLS and FIFA) players.

Links to the other parts of the series:
PART 1: Phoenix: Preparation for Migratory Sports
PART 2: The Coliseum’s Impact
PART 3: Migration Patterns of Hockey Players: Pekka Rautakallio and Juhani Tamminen

Player Stats (Hockeydb):
Pekka Rautakallio
Lauri Mononen
Seppo Repo
Juhani Tamminen


SOURCES:
Pekka Rautakallio (Hockey Player/Coach) in discussion with Hannu Kauhala, June 2021.
Juhani Tamminen (Hockey Player/Coach) in discussion with Hannu Kauhala, June 2021.
Wyman, Mark. (1993). Round-trip to America: the immigrants return to Europe, 1880-1930. Ithaca, N.Y : Cornell University Press, 15-31.
“Publicity Photo of Al Rollins, Juhani Whalsten, Pekka Rautakallio, Lauri Mononen, and Herb Rudoy.” Arizona Republic, June 17, 1975, 30.
Cooke, Ellen “Cooke’s Carte: Someone to put the Finnish to the Food”. Arizona Republic, December 3, 1970.
Order of the White Rose of Finland – Ritarikunnat, last accessed June 22, 2021.
Phoenix Roadrunners [WHA] all-time player list at hockeydb.com, last accessed June 22, 2021.
Jaatinen, R., & Saarivirta, T. (2014). The Evolution of English Language Teaching during Societal Transition in Finland – A mutual relationship or a distinctive process?. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(11). http://dx.doi.org/10.14221/ajte.2014v39n11.3
Pinchevsky, Tal “Secret behind Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews’ skating prowess is a Ukrainian via Mexico”. ESPN, Jan 17, 2017. NHL — The secret weapon behind Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews’ skating prowess is a Ukrainian instructor who moved from Mexico (espn.com) Last accessed June 23, 2021.

Climate data:
Climate Pori (August 1975) – Climate data (29520) (tutiempo.net)
https://www.almanac.com/weather/history/AZ/Phoenix/1975-08-01

Migration Patterns of Hockey Players: Pekka Rautakallio and Juhani Tamminen

According to Finnish hockey historian Hannu Kauhala, ten Finns played in the World Hockey Association (WHA) opening the NHL for Finns like Pekka Rinne, Tukka Rask, and Miro Heiskanen. Four of them played for the Phoenix Roadrunners. Pekka Rautakallio played defense during the 1975/76 and 1976/77 seasons. For the 1976/77 season, Juhani Tamminen played as left wing on the Lappline along with Seppo Repo (center) and Lauri Mononen (right wing).

In the search of talent, the WHA discovered that talent in Finland with Rautakallio and Tamminen. Rautakallio (in gold and yellow) traveled from Pori, Finland to Phoenix, Arizona. Returning to Helsinki for two years, he joined the NHL’s Flames final season in Atlanta. He stayed with the team in their move to Calgary. Two seasons later, he returned to Helsinki.

Tamminen’s journey (in shades of blue) started in Turku, Finland. He headed to Cleveland and then traded to Phoenix. The Roadrunners declared bankruptcy. Tamminen moved with the team to Oklahoma City to join the Central Hockey League. For the 1978/79 season, he returned to Turku where he finished his playing career.

Of note, Rautakallio mentioned his first apartment was a few blocks away from the Memorial Coliseum on 17th Avenue. Not many two storey buildings existed on 17th Ave. One possible candidate was sandwiched between 17th drive and 17th Ave. along Grand Ave. (Note: Lower right corner below).

Arizona Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum and 17th Ave 1976/2019 (Maricopa.gov)

Similar to the migrant workers of today and the early-20th century, Rautakallio and Tamminen came with different backgrounds and requirements. Their ability to face the challenges of migration drastically differed.

PART 1: Phoenix: Preparation for Migratory Sports
PART 2: The Coliseum’s Impact
PART 4: Pekka and Juhani: Their Migrant Story

SOURCES:
Pekka Rautakallio (Hockey Player/Coach) in discussion with Hannu Kauhala, June 2021.
Juhani Tamminen (Hockey Player/Coach) in discussion with Hannu Kauhala, June 2021.
Kauhala, Hannu “WHA – Unelmien Liiga” 2014. ISBN: 9789526789729
Historical Aerial Photography (maricopa.gov) last accessed June 16, 2021.
HockeyDb “Phoenix Roadrunners 1976-77 roster and statistics” last accessed June 18, 2021.

Phoenix: Preparation for Migratory Sports

Extreme population and area growth in Phoenix, Arizona in the 1950s supported the importation of migration-based sports, like hockey. Throughout the 1950s, Phoenix experienced about a 300% population increase and nearly an 1100% area expansion (Phoenix, 2013). This growth pushed Phoenix from the 99th rank city in the U.S. to 29 (Phoenix 2003, 44).  

In 1965, the Arizona State Fair Commission desired a multipurpose facility with unobstructed, arena seating for events ranging from livestock shows to concerts and sports. Associated Capitol Architects submitted the winning proposal, a hyperbolic-paraboloid arena covering approximately 2.75 acres (Az State Fairgrounds 1966).

Despite the deep Sonoran Desert locale, the commission and builders included facilities and mechanization for seemingly out-of-place activities. If taken by itself, including amenities for ice skating and hockey appears to be a random whim of the rich. However, Texas supported several minor professional hockey teams starting in the 1920s (Farris 2016). Eventually, these teams would lead to the World Hockey Association (WHA). In preparation for creating northeastern winters in the desert, engineers ensured the coliseum could produce artificial ice.

Oklahoma business men brought hockey to Phoenix. First, they forced their Tulsa Oilers team to play a few exhibition games. In 1967, the Western Hockey League granted franchise for a new team in Phoenix, who would be called the Roadrunners. In 1974, the Roadrunners switched allegiances to the WHA, a new competitor to the National Hockey league.

PHXRoadrunnersWHA.png
World Hockey Association Logo (1974-77)

With Major League Soccer, three major league sports are rooted in the immigrant community. The immigrant community saved baseball. Additionally, baseball forced many sports related immigration quotas. Soccer started out as a national level amateur sport with attention during the Olympics. Basketball failed to discover international talent until 1990 with Valde Divac and Dikembe Mutombo. Hockey started as sport of immigrants, by immigrants, but for the common people.

In the WHL (1967-1974) and WHA (1974-77) years, only three Americans played for the Phoenix Roadrunners. During the WHA years, two Americans and four Finns played. Pekka Rautakallio (centered) offered his personal story about migrating to America for temporary work.

Typically, we associate migratory work with farmers or even the early 20th century. In the Southwest, where I grew up, I learned about migrant farmworker programs. But who knew that the Phoenix Roadrunners would eventually lead to Auston Matthews from Scottsdale, Az and winner of the Rocket Richard trophy for most goals in the NHL.

PART 2: The Coliseum’s Impact
PART 3: Migration Patterns of Hockey Players: Pekka Rautakallio and Juhani Tamminen
PART 4: Pekka and Juhani: Their Migrant Story

Sources:
Arizona State Fairground Brochure on the Coliseum, 1966, Arizona Memory Project.
1960 Census Supplementary Reports: Rank of Cities of 100,000 or More: 1960 PC(S1)-7, census.gov
2013 Summary of Community Profile and Trends, Phoenix.gov
McCartney, Earl “ICE Factory”, The Arizona Republic, February 13, 1966, retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/clip/78675623/arizona-republic/
“Contract Signing” Arizona Republic, June 17, 1965. Retrieved from Clipping from Arizona Republic – Newspapers.com
Phoenix Roadrunners’ Logo, wikimedia. Retrieved from PHXRoadrunnersWHA – Phoenix Roadrunners (WHA) – Wikipedia
Farris, Jason (ed.) “Texas on Ice: Pro Strides to the Stars – the 1942/3 to 1992/3 Seasons” 2016

Sports Immigration: Phoenix RoadRunners (WHA)

Since the late-19th century, sportspeople shared a common experience with migrant laborers, especially in the United States. Out of all sports, baseball shares the greatest link with immigration. In the early-20th century, immigrant fans saved baseball from extinction. Since then, baseball imported so many players that there is a cap. Yet, America would not have (modern) hockey if there was no immigration. From this American’s point of view, hockey is an immigrant’s game. Like many of the migrant laborers, the United States absorbed hockey into its fabric.

From Minnesota to Maine, hockey brought immigrants and immigrants brought hockey. Fishermen from Nova Scotia plying trade in Boston, like Mickey Roach’s family. Or, the frontier elite traveling to find personal success in New York City, like Tom Howard. Due to the cold northern climates, the migration of hockey and laborers make sense in the mid-Atlantic and mid-west states. However, hockey continued traveling south and so did the players and staff.

In the 1960s, Oklahoma business men brought hockey to the Sonoran Desert. They built the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum at the Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. While they expected bands and basketball, they wanted hockey.

Before receiving the franchise for the RoadRunners, the Oklahoma businessmen brought teams from Tulsa to play in 1966. In 1967, the league awarded a franchise license. The owners moved the Victoria Maple Leafs from British Columbia to play in the desert.

Prior to the Immigration Act of 1990, sportspeople competed for the same visas as laborers. Despite teams and agents eased their journey for H-1 or H-2 visas, they are immigrants. As immigrants, they supported and added diversity to their communities. Many studied the relationship between baseball, immigration, and the value. However, many have not looked into how hockey changed their community. Whereas most baseball players remain, hockey players mainly return. Similar to early-20th Century European migrant laborers, they brought their American trunk home.

The Pekka and Juhani Series:
PART 1: Phoenix: Preparation for Migratory Sports
PART 2: The Coliseum’s Impact
PART 3: Migration Patterns of Hockey Players: Pekka Rautakallio and Juhani Tamminen
PART 4: Pekka and Juhani: Their Migrant Story

Immigrant Players Steal Bases And Basketballs, Not Jobs (forbes.com)
Extraordinary Ability and the English Premier League: The Immigration, Adjudication, and Place of Alien Athletes in American and English Society (valpo.edu) (Pages 545-549 or 6-10 of 67)
Round-Trip to America: the Immigrants Return to Europe, 1880-1930 Mark Wyman

The NAHL: Joseph “Joe” Shaughnessy

   Joseph “Joe” Michael Shaughnessy, with a largely undeveloped talent for hockey, blended into Boston’s large Shaughnessy community. Joe lived and died near his birthplace in Revere, Massachusetts. He most likely attended Boston College High School. During his Junior year (1913/14), he was selected for the hockey team. For the Boston Globe, Boston College High hockey was in a second-tier league. As a result, they did not receive much coverage. Joe’s skill development lacked a significant public record. Furthermore, he probably dropped out before his Senior year (1914/15).

   Shaughnessy apprenticed as a mailer with the International Typographical Union (I.T.U.). He worked at the Boston Post. For the 1916/17, Shaughnessy played on the Boston Arena Hockey Club. With the Arenas, he helped them to a second-place finish having lost to the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) in the final playoff game. In December 1917, he tried out for the Arenas, again. World War I intervened. Then, he found himself on the First Naval District team.

   After the war, Joe returned to the mailrooms of the Post and then the Globe. He left hockey’s limelight. Although seen with the 1922/23 B.A.A. team, they probably kept him as a substitute. His real sports passion was baseball. He played short-stop for several seasons on the Boston Typos. The Boston Typos played in the Union Printers’ Baseball League, the longest running amateur league in the United States. In 1921, they won the championship. Beyond these few events, Shaughnessy largely kept out of the public attention.

     Despite a stale public life, his private life roared to life. He married Marie Sullivan prior to the war. As the Roaring-20s kicked off, Shaughnessy’s family also grew. Joseph Arthur and Marie were born. Later, they were followed by Rita and William. All seemed well until Arthur died in 1946. Still, this Shaughnessy clan can claim a mantle of honor.

   Discovering Joe Shaughnessy was more about discovering who he wasn’t. Even with the help of US Census data, it was challenging to unravel Joe from John, Ed, Frank, an insurance broker and the others. Obituaries seemed to blend Joe with Frank, who coached hockey in the 1920s. Publicly available family trees listed his last name as O’Shaughnessy. Differentiating them became a matter of one fact, Joe was born, raised, lived, and died in Revere, Massachusetts. Joe also remained true to his family and profession, a mailer. In his obituary, The Boston Globe noted Joe’s 37 years of service. In reality, Joe was probably closer to 45 years with I.T.U. Boston Mailers’ Local 16. When Marie died in 1976, they counted three children, nine grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren. I like to think that Joe probably never made himself out to be more than what he was.

The NAHL: Michael “Mickey” Richard Roach

   Michael “Mickey” Richard Roach cultivated his natural hockey talent resulting in the most successful professional hockey career out of all the USNAHL players. Roach played for 21 seasons. Following that, he coached nearly 6 seasons of professional hockey and another 11 seasons of coaching Senior Amateur hockey. Roach’s coaching career focused on cultivating the talent in others rather than himself.

   Born on 1 May 1895, Mickey Roach, a second-generation Nova Scotian, left the Maritimes for Boston in time to start high school. He attended Boston English High School with tailored curriculum towards the trades. Even as early as the 1912/13 season, he played on two teams, English H.S. and the Boston Arena intramural Skate Boys. Listed as Roche, the Boston Globe named him to their All Interscholastic second team for hockey. For the 1913/14 season, Roach moved on from the Skate Boys to the Pilgrim Athletic Association team while still playing for English H.S. Once again, the Boson Globe named Roach, as “Roache”, to its Interscholastic team. But, placed him in the first team along with Frank Downing, Robert Paisley, and Percy Wanamaker. Roach’s skill and determination to develop that skill were evident.

   After graduating, Roach played on the Boston Arenas for two seasons, but was driven for more. Much like the English and Huntington school teams, the Boston Arenas were limited to local play. The Boston Athletic Association team played in the developing intercity amateur hockey league. Despite his preeminence in Boston hockey circles, he moved to New York City in time for the 1916/17 season.

   For the next two years, Roach played in the greater New York City league. First, he played with the Crescent during the 1916/17 season. In a four-team intercity league, the Crescents lost in the final match to the Boston Arenas. In 1917, World War I finally caught up to the United States. Amateur hockey greatly changed resulting in the creation of the U.S. National Amateur Hockey League (USNAHL). Roach, a clerk for the BonBright investment bank, played on Cornelius Fellowes’ New York Wanderers. In November 1918, the war also finally caught with Roach. He became a Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) cadet and traveled back to Toronto to start training.

   Always looking for hockey, Roach picked up the uniform and picked up the stick. On 14 December 1918, the R.A.F. played one exhibition game against the Dentals in Ontario Hockey Association’s (O.H.A.) Senior A division. The R.A.F. bowed out of the season. Roach and Thomas “Flash” McCarthy, who joined him from New York, joined the Hamilton Tigers for the remainder of the season. This move started Roach’s NHL playing career.

   Starting with the St. Pats in 1920, he played seven seasons in the newly formed NHL. He moved from the Toronto St. Pats to the Hamilton Tigers, who elevated from the amateur ranks. For the 1924/25, Roach moved with the Tigers. Bill Dwyer renamed the Tigers to the New York Americans, referred as the Amerks, and moved them to New York City. As a result, the Amerks and Roach were the first hockey team to play in Tex Rickard’s Madison Square Garden in December 1925. While Roach finished his NHL career in New York City, he continued to play on for three more seasons in the minor leagues.

    While playing with the St. Pats, Roach married Elsie Alida Tobey, an Ontario native, in March 1920. Even though Roach played in Ontario, he established his family back in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. In April 1921, his first son, Clifford Roach, was born there. However, not all of his four children could claim a Nova Scotia start. On 8 November 1922, their second son, Warren, originated in Boston. Finally, Ontario was home to his two daughters, Elsie and Eleanor. Despite the numerous locales for key life events, they called Nova Scotia home.

   Roach’s last season as player was the 1929/30 season with the Buffalo Bisons. The Bisons participated in the International Hockey League after the dissolution of the Canadian Professional Hockey League. In 1930, Roach accepted a manager/coach position with the Buffalo Bisons. In this new role, he started developing players for the NHL. From 1930 until 1936, Roach coached the Bisons, Syracuse Stars and, very briefly, the Rochester Cardinals. Roach left as a consistent contender, but never a winner, among team financial troubles and politics.

   Retiring from professional coaching, he refused to let hockey go. Initially, he attempted to organize a Senior A team for O.H.A. Eventually, he received an appointment to coach the Niagara Falls Brights in Dec 1938. In Feb 1939, he resigned this position and moved back to Nova Scotia.

   The Cape Breton league challenged for the Allan Cup, which was familiar ground for Roach. For the 1939/40 season, he sought to win with the North Sydney Victorias. At the time, Maritime Senior A hockey teams desired to claim the Allan Cup from the Halifax Wolverines. In 1941/42, he coached the Sydney Millionaires on a strong Cup challenge but fell short.

   As war crept back in Roach’s life, he switched to coaching the Navy teams in the Cape Breton League. At the time, Cliff was playing his top game. Meanwhile, Warren joined the US Navy. By September 1953, Mickey Roach retired from hockey and settled into his Customs job. Although a few of his teams made strong challenges, he never coached an Allan Cup winning team.

   With the exception of the 1918/19 Hamilton Tigers, Mickey Roach finished second more times than not. Whether as a player or coach, most teams were strong contenders with his participation. In recognition of his playing skills, the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame honored him in their initial inductions. In addition to the playing and coaching careers, he raised two sons in the hockey tradition. Cliff played briefly for the Providence Reds in the AHL. As for his daughters, Elsie Corinne died shortly after birth and Eleanor probably lived a quiet life. In 1977, Mickey Roach’s passage received more attention in the States than in Canada. It is assumed his wife, Elsie, passed away some time after. When compared to Herb Drury, Frenchy LaCroix and other USNAHL players, Mickey Roach was the most successful hockeyist.

NOTE: Misspellings of his last name, especially in the Boston Globe, are Roache, Roark, and Roche. Elsie’s middle name also changes greatly from Alida, Ileeda, and Illita in government records.

Additional reading:
https://blog.thebackcheck.com/2016/05/11/mickey-roach/

The NAHL: Alphonse Albert “Frenchy” LaCroix

   When Alphonse Albert “Frenchy” LaCroix decided to grow up, he walked away from hockey for the forests of Maine. From 1914 until 1947, LaCroix rarely missed playing in a season of hockey. His youthful face and few public comments hinted at a jovial, prankster personality.  Yet, his accomplishments demonstrated a rare skill on the ice.

   Although born in Newton, Massachusetts, LaCroix’s parents immigrated from Quebec, Canada. Young Lacroix would be baptized as Alphonsum Aldine Lacroix on 22 October 1897 at Our Lady Help of Christians, a Catholic parish. His Father was one of the more well-known French residents in Newton. Thus, the Young Lacroix earned the “Frenchy” or “Frenchie” nickname. He still performed as the top goalie for three years at Newton High School. In 1915, 1916, and 1917, The Boston Daily Globe named him to their interscholastic first team. America had just entered into World War I when LaCroix graduated from high school.

   In December 1917, LaCroix enlisted in the Navy Reserve. George V. Brown, the First Naval District Athletic Director, immediately pulled LaCroix onto his hockey team. From there, LaCroix made a lifelong ally. After the war, LaCroix played for Brown’s Boston Athletic Association Unicorns.  Additionally, he played the goalie for the 1924 U.S. Men’s Silver-medal winning team. However, he continued to achieve greater heights.

   In November 1925, he stepped into the Montreal Canadiens goal for an ailing Georges Vézina. Vezina suffered from tuberculosis and could not finish the game. LaCroix manned the net for two periods and another four games until the Canadiens signed Herb Rheaume. Afterwards, Lacroix remained as the Canadiens back-up goalie until the end of the 1926/27 season. The five games between 28 November and 15 December 1925 would be his only NHL games.

Although some accounts stated was an NHL emergency goalie, he was always retained by Les Canadiens, and used at Leo Dandurand’s discretion. In January 1926, they called for him to substitute for the Ottawa Senators’ goalie, who got knocked out. After a short rest, Connell decided to stick out the game. LaCroix did not play. In February, the Pittsburgh Pirates requested Lacroix’s services against the Canadiens on 23 February. Dandurand denied the request citing bad precedent. However, it is just as likely Dandurand did not want to face a good goalie. Pittsburgh won the match with their coach, Odie Cleghorn, in the net.

He played in three exhibition games. First, a 4 February 1926 game against the Montreal Yannigans, a Maroons feeder team. Second, He played for the Providence Reds on 8 April 1927. At the end of the 2nd period, the puck struck the Reds’ goalie square in the chin.  His final game with the Canadiens was a post-season match against the Providence Reds on 12 April 1927. The following season, Lacroix found himself with the Reds.

   Stating with the 1927/28 season, Lacroix served the rest of his time in minor or senior amateur leagues. From 1927/28 until 1929/30, he bounced between the Reds and the Lewiston (Maine) St. Doms. At the start of the 1930/31 season, the Boston Tigers attempted to use Lacroix to salvage their standings. He was let go after just four games. The final time he would be paid-to-play.

   During the 30s, he assisted George Owen Jr. in coaching the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Engineers. When World War II curtailed hockey at MIT, he co-established a team for an amateur industrial league with Owen. In the down time, he worked for an insurance broker. After the war, Lacroix packed up his skates and moved back to Lewiston.

   On ice accomplishments hid private hardships. In October 1912, LaCroix’s dad died leaving his mom and three young sons. The oldest, Elyre, was about 7. Just after WWI, He married Anna Champagne in 1920. They had two children, Janet/Jeanette and Armand. Oddly, Armand disappeared from public record by 1940. By 1948, they divorced. Anna and Janet remained in Massachusetts while he left for Maine. There, he married Eva Fournier, née Malo. They had a daughter, Suzanne. Finally, he decided to settle down. Another private man with a public face. He passed away on 12 April 1973 from cancer. Eva joined him in rest in 2009. He is survived by Suzanne.

   Frenchy Lacroix was the first American-born NHL goalie and, potentially the third American-born in the NHL. Across 13 seasons of play, he attained a 2.18 goals against average (GAA) in the regular season. Prior to his season with the Montreal Canadiens, he maintained a 1.82 GAA over 7 seasons. Plus, he won the silver with the 1924 U.S. Men’s Olympic Ice hockey team. His youthfulness continued to show through until the late-40s by being an assistant coach and team organizer for a war time industrial league. After the war, the game finally surpassed him. He headed to Maine’s woods to settle down.

NOTE: Over the years, LaCroix’s name took many variations. “LaCroix” was the definitive variant. However, La Croix and Lacroix were also seen. The later oft seen in newspaper articles. Rarely, his middle name, “Albert” appeared. On his WWII draft card, the registrar wrote “Aldéi” for his middle name.

THE NAHL: LT Jesse K. Park Jr.

Jesse K. Park Jr. rose from obscurity helped by one man, George V. Brown. Little is known of Park’s background or future after World War I. What is known is that he was in the right place at the right time for the Navy Yard hockey team. I doubt if history will ever be able to discern if he genuinely wanted to help the Navy Yard team or was a pawn of George Brown.

Born in 1886, Jesse K. Park Jr’s family moved from New Haven, Connecticut to Newton, Massachusetts by 1910. His skill in high school sports did not capture the imagination of newspapers of the time. Thus, his sudden rise in hockey appears to come from nowhere.

In the pre-war years, little exists of Park’s college or young adult years. A rare mention exists of a family vacation to New Haven, Connecticut in 1908. He clearly went to college, but where was unknown. When the war started, Park commissioned in the National Naval Volunteers. By December 1917, he attained the rank of Lt. J.G. and was in charge of aviation examinations. He screened potential applicants for the US Navy’s new aviation branch.

I can imagine George Brown approaching Park with the offer of a lifetime. As every good salesman knows, fame is everything and free publicity is worth dollars. Park helped several of the Navy hockey team members to become Naval and Marine Corps aviators. In return, he got his free publicity.

After the war, Park seemed to fade away to the ordinary life. Little is known of Park after the war. He ran an automobile dealership at least through the 20s. He married Katherine McGillen in 1923. They didn’t seem to have children. In August 1965, Catherine passed away. Park passed away in February 1975. How they lived, survived, and loved has been lost. Still, his contribution to those that played on the Navy Yard team cannot be overlooked.

Sources:
Newton (MA) Newsletter 1908
Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy
Jesse K. Park Jr. Obit
Katherine M. Park Obit

The NAHL: Dr. Francis Charles “DINK” Madden

While Dr. Eddie Nagle was the dentist who played hockey, Dr. Francis Charles “Dink” Madden was the hockeyist who played at dentistry. Dink Madden grew up in Ottawa is an Irish Roman Catholic. Although a well-known athlete during his college years, his later accomplishments never left Pittsburgh. In the 20s, he continued to play hockey at the apparent cost of his dentistry practice. Although he refereed a few games in 1930, he failed to reconnect with hockey after moving to Detroit. Yet, he likely maintained close contact with his best friend and best man, Eddie Nagle.

Born in May, 1893, Dink rose from a single parent home to athletic stardom. In 1895, Dink Madden’s mother and infant sister died, likely from complications of childbirth. Despite this, Dink made Hintonburg public school’s 1901 honor roll. By 1911, he enrolled in Ottawa college. There, he’d meet his lifelong friend, Eddie Nagle. They became famous athletes in hockey, football, and track and field. After they graduated in 1915, Madden attended McGill University leaving his home roots for the 1915/16 school year. In Summer 1916, Dink returned and, with Eddie, transferred to University of Pittsburgh.

From 1916/17 until the summer of 1918, Dink played Point with the Pittsburgh Athletic Association All-Stars while completing his dentistry degree. On the All-Stars team, he played with Herb Drury, Joe and Larry McCormick and others. In 1917/18, the All-Stars played the National Amateur Hockey League becoming the strongest team in United States amateur hockey.

In spring 1918, Dink and Eddie received Canadian draft notices. Together, they traveled back to Canada to answer the summons. Instead of entering into the infantry, he volunteered for the Royal Canadian Navy as surgeon practioners. Prior to leaving for England, Dink married local girl Margaret Lillian Spielmacher on 24 June, 1918. Eddie was witness and best man. After a short trip to Montreal and eastern Canada, Dink, Lilly and Eddie parted ways duration of the war. For the war, Dink was assigned to the HMS Anemone. He returned in June 1919 to finish his final year of dentistry school at University of Pittsburgh.

Dink reunited with Eddie at University of Pittsburgh for their final year of dentistry. They also played in local hockey for the 1919/20 season. After graduating though, Dink remained in Pittsburgh while Eddie moved to Saskatoon. Although Dink initially left hockey to start a dentistry practice, he returned to play for Pittsburgh in the 1920/21 USAHA season.

His post-war playing career did not last long. He coached an local amateur team for a season. Starting in 1923, he refereed hockey games. Additionally, he was a associate clerk of the course for the Pittsburgh Skating Association. However, his dentistry practice did not seem to get established. In 1925, he started a cigar store called Dink Maddens at 132 S. Highland Ave.

By 1928, Dink sold his store and left Pittsburgh for Detroit near his wife’s family. For the 1930/31 season, he refereed at least three hockey games, which one was an NHL-IHL exhibition. Despite listed with the “Dr.” moniker, it is not clear if he even attempted a dentistry practice in Detroit. In 1930, he worked at a bank. By 1942 he was a manager at Sears’ Gratiot Ave store. Yet, there is no mention of a dentistry practice.

Dink passed away in 1954 at the age of 83. Father of two and husband of one. Dink became a champion in Pittsburgh. Though leading a fairly ordinary life after Pittsburgh, he would still be considered a champion.

The NAHL: Dr. Edmund “Eddie” Burke Nagle

Saskatoon’s adopted, Dr. Edmund Burke Nagle, dedicated himself equally to dentistry and amateur sports, especially hockey. Born in Almonte, Canada, Eddie, as he’d become to be known, played football and hockey at St. Joseph High School in the early-1900s. However, it was in college where his athletic talents rose to fame.

Starting in November, 1910, Eddie enrolled in Ottawa College with newspapers declaring his right half-back position. However, he also continued to play the seven-man hockey. He starred at center and learned under Father Stanton. Additionally, he played alongside Dr. Francis Charles “Dink” Madden with whom he’d become fast friends.

Prior to Eddie’s graduation, he traveled to Battleford, Saskatechewan for part of the 1913/14 season. Battleford desired a Senior A hockey team. Eddie only played for the one season and returned to Ottawa. Although he’d travel to play in other locales, like Dunnville, those brief months in Battleford must have made an impression.

After graduating in 1915, he waited or took a break. He continued to play amateur sports with the Ottawa Club. In Fall 1915, he injured his foot playing football, which may have required an operation. The injury possibly caused him to change his mind on professional hockey. However, the discussions between the Aberdeens (Amateur) and Coach Alfred Smith of the professional Ottawa Senators. Or, may be, it was conversations with his long time friend, Dink Madden.

In 1915, the newspapers expected Eddie to attend McGill University like his friend Dink. Instead, Eddie spent the year wandering from 1915 until 1916. During this time, he managed the Aberdeen’s amateur hockey team. Also, he played amateur sports with Dink Madden. In November 1916, Eddie and Dink surprised Ottawa by moving to Pittsburgh.

Eddie and Dink attended University of Pittsburgh to study Dentistry. They played hockey with the city’s famous Pittsburgh All-Stars, or YellowJackets. During the 1917/18 season, they also played in the National Amateur Hockey League with the All-Stars. In May 1918, they received their draft notice from Canada. Unlike four of their colleagues who joined the U.S. Army, Eddie and Dink traveled back to Canada to enlist. They chose to take a commission in the Royal Navy as Surgeon Probationers.

Eddie reunited with Dink in Pittsburgh in 1919 in time for school and hockey season. They continued to play with the All-Stars. After hockey, war and other events, Eddie and Dink graduated as dentists in June 1920.

Eddie and Dink had at least one last adventure together. Dink traveled to Ottawa to be witness for Eddie’s marriage. On July 14, 1920, Eddie married Kathleen Shamon. While Dink returned to Pittsburgh, Eddie and Kathleen moved back to Saskatoon and Battleford.

After starting up his practice, Eddie remained active in amateur sports, especially hockey. He played into his final years of life for the School for the Deaf. Additionally, he became renowned in trapshooting. He and Kathleen loved travel. On a cruise ship near San Fransisco, Dr. Edmund Nagle passed away on June 24, 1966. Eddie Nagle left behind a legacy of sports, dedication and community.

Sources:
St. Joseph Church History
CEF Enlistment Paperwork, Library and Archives Canada
UK Naval List, July 1919
Marriage Certificate, Courtesy of Ancestry.com (paid account required)
School for the Deaf, University of Saskatchewan
Dr. Nagle’s Obituary, Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon) courtesy of newspaper.com
Montreal Gazette
Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa Journal
Saskatoon Daily Star
Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon)
Pittsburgh Press