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: 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: Frank Patrick Downing

Frank Patrick Downing allowed his dedication and skill to speak. A midwest transplant from Milwaukee, the Downings moved to Somerville in the early 1900s. Attending Somerville High School, Frank gained attention for hockey. After high school, he worked for the National Biscuit Company, a.k.a. NABISCO. Throughout the ‘teens and early twenties, he won championships in the American amateur hockey leagues. In 1922, he quietly hung up his amateur hockey skates. His accomplishments standing on their own.

Despite moving at an early age. Frank Downing appears to have retained nany character traits typically associated with the midwest. Born in June 1894, he found himself in Somerville High School’s class of 1915. Whether through hard work, talent or both, Frank excelled in sports, specifically hockey. Due to his skill and attaining captain, the Boston Globe placed him on their 1913/14 Interscholastic All-star team along with Percy Wanamaker.

While still playing high school hockey, Frank rose to senior amateur hockey. For the 1914/15 season, he played with the Boston Arenas. At the time, the Arenas team included Frank Synnott, Mickey Roach, Farrell Conley, and others. He even played at least one game with Raymie Skilton. Afer graduating, he switched to the B.A.A. Unicorns.

In 1917, he submitted his draft card. He listed assistant foreman at National Biscuit for his occupation. He placed his employment location on 128 Franklin St., which is the former Kennedy Biscuit Co. Before the Army called, Frank joined the Navy Reserve Force.

After the war, Frank returned to NABISCO and amateur hockey. First, he started with BAA. In 1922, he drove the Westminster to a USAHA championship. He almost led the team to an international win against Pere Marquette. Pere Maquette promised a unique challenge cup for the series. Yet, the cup was never presented. Depending upon the amateur rules, the Marquette won 2 games to 1 (Canadian newspapers) or it was a tie with 3 goals apiece (Boston Globe). Either way, Pere Marquette never had to show the promised cup. At 28, Frank hung up his skates with a Fellowes challenge cup for his final hockey prize.

In October 1924, Frank married Dorothy Ann Deacon. They had two children, Francis and John. By 1942, the Downings moved to Philadephia. Frank continued working for NABISCO. At 48, Frank provided nearly thrity years of service to NABISCO. He still had a long life yet ahead.

At 88, Frank passed away in Philadelphia. Dorothy passed away five years later in 1987. Many details about Frank are not publicly known. What is known are the comparisons to some of the greatest hockey players of his era, his championships, and his dedication to his family, country and craft.

Sources:
1. Kennedy Biscuit Co. Cambridge Historical Commission. Jan 16, 2019
2. History of Candy Making in Cambridge. Natalie Moravek. Cambridge Historical Society. 2011
3. United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm. (Courtesy of ancestry.com)
4. World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania. State Headquarters ca. 1942. NARA Publication: M1951. NAI: 563728. The National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. U.S.A. (Courtesy of ancestry.com)
5. Frank Downing player profile. SIHR. https://www.sihrhockey.org/member_player_sheet.cfm?player_id=134087 (NOTE: Requires a paid account.)
6. Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Ottawa Citizen and others courtesy of newspapers.com

The NAHL: CAPT William Rees Rush

At the start of 1917, Captain William Rees Rush commanded the Navy Yard in Boston and commandant of the First Naval District. He held the position since November, 1914. Although he officially retired on October 16, 1916, the Navy recalled him on October 17, 1916 to continue at Commander, Navy Yard, Boston. The Navy detached him from duty as Commander, First Naval District on February 7, 1918, but retained him as Commandant, Navy Yard. Finally, they retired Captain Rush on March 1919 upon being relieved of duty.  As Commandant, he oversaw many aspects of the Navy Yard and the transition to war. Besides reports of suspicious personnel or fires, he hired George Brown to be the athletic director for the First Naval District and promoted sports. For example, the Y.M.C.A built the first recreational facilities at the Navy Yard under his command. However, this is a small section of Captain Rush’s 43 year career in the United States Navy. And, it is not even the most significant time of his career.

Born in Philadelphia on September 19, 1857, William entered the U.S. Navy as a midshipman in June, 1872. This was not a Naval Academy midshipman appointment. William experienced a more “traditional” navy officer’s education. It lasted nearly ten years until his promotion to ensign in October, 1881.

Officer promotion worked completely different during Captain Rush’s service than now. Currently, promotions from ensign to lieutenant (junior grade) (LTJG) and LTJG to lieutenant (LT) are each two years with a minor review of the officer’s service record. William was promoted to LTJG in February, 1889 and promoted to LT in December, 1893. Ensign to LTJG was eight years and LTJG to LT was only four years. Plus, there were examinations. However, it is difficult to find much information without digging through the Bureau of Navigation or Personnel archives.

After several years at LT, William attended the Navy’s War College in 1900. This duty assignment prepared William for promotion to lieutenant commander (LCDR) in 1901. He also married Jane Pomroy Hare while attending the War College. There’s nearly a month of leave probably because Jane and William married in Hawaii.

In 1909, William was promoted to captain (CAPT). In December 1913, he attached to the Florida (BB-30). In April 1914, BB-30 and CAPT Rush were order to Vera Cruz as part of a expedition to evict General Victoriano Huerta from the Mexican presidency after a coup d’état. Between 21 and 22 April, CAPT Rush led a naval brigade (about 1,600 men) to take Vera Cruz. In about 24 hours, the city was captured with 17 dead and 65 wounded. In December, 1915, CAPT Rush was awarded the Medal of Honor.

After WWI, CAPT Rush and Jane Hare traveled Europe. Eventually, they landed up in Pallanza, Italy. CAPT Rush died on August 2, 1940, just after the fall of France. Jane Hare passes away in Switzerland on August 27, 1947.

As Commandant of the First Naval District, CAPT William Rush promoted sports and competition. It wasn’t limited to hockey, but football and other sports as well. He hired one of the best sports promoters of the era, and likely had a hand in acquiring talent, too. Whether for public relations or a competition against the Second Naval District or concern for the health of sailors, I doubt we’ll ever know. May be it was all three. Without Rush’s appointment of George Brown, we might not have had the first united states hockey league of national preeminence, the United States Amateur Hockey Association.

Sources:
1. https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/l/living-conditions-in-the-19th-century-us-navy.html
2. Naval Officer’s Service Record Abstract, National Archives, courtesy of Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com/image/581042150)
3. Confidential War Diaries (of the First Naval District) (1917-1918), National Archives, https://catalog.archives.gov/id/1137572
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_R._Rush
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_William_R._Rush_(DD-714)
6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Florida_(BB-30)
7. https://www.usni.org/magazines/naval-history-magazine/2014/march/take-veracruz-once
8. https://history.army.mil/html/moh/mohmex.html#RUSH

The NAHL: George V. Brown

In late 1917, George V. Brown added a new role to his accomplished list, Athletic Director of the First Naval District. Prior to this, he held the same position of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA). With the BAA, he started every Boston Marathon except for the first two. During his era, BAA teams won championships. He promoted sports whenever he got the chance. George was such a fixture in the BAA and Boston sports that the BAA suspended or refocused operations during 1918.

It is hard to tell who used whom. The U.S. Navy leveraged George’s sports promotions to increase its popularity. Quite possibly, the First Naval District hoped to gain an advantage in the regular sports competitions against Second Naval District (Newport, Rhode Island) and others. For George, he became responsible for Navy sports across most of New England.

Following the war, George returned the BAA back to its normal sports operations. A long time member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, George built the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team for the first Winter Olympics in 1924. (NOTE: Cornelius Fellowes created the first Olympic men’s hockey team in 1920.) It was a silver medal team consisting of Herb Drury and Alphonse La Croix.

George also experienced change in hockey from the amateur to the professional. While George supported professional hockey, George believed in the amateur spirit. He tried several times to establish a new amateur league in the Boston after the break up of the US Amateur Hockey Association. In 1932, the Boston Globe commented about George’s efforts to “breathe new life into the amateur hockey corpse.” Despite a potentially 150 registered clubs with the Amateur Athletics Union (AAU), amateur hockey would never regain a prominent role.

Fri, Dec 23, 1932 – 16 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com

Sources:
1. https://www.baa.org/
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_V._Brown
3. Boston Globe, December 23, 1932, courtesy of newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/31905965/
4. Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1931, courtesy of newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/29383315/