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: Forrest Clifford Osgood

The skilled, charismatic high school forward pursued battles of healing after the war. Born on June 22, 1891, Forrest Clifford Osgood made a name for himself as an elite forward for Arlington High School. After graduating in 1911, he played on the Intercolonials and the Unicorns. After the war, he stayed in the South, and noted in prominent social circles. By 1930, he had established himself as a Christian Science Practitioner in Atlanta. He married Atlantan socialite Lillian Dalton Owens (White) in the mid-30s. During the 30s and 40s, Forrest officiated many funerals as a Christian Science reader or practitioner. The Osgoods moved to Florida in the late-40s, where Forrest passed away in 1949 and Lillie in 1979. Along this path, Forrest interacted with many fascinating people, and even left his own mark on history.

The noted Arlington High School forward played for three seasons from 08/09 – 10/11. During that time, his teammates included Wendell Reycroft and Jack Hutchinson. According to the Globe, the team unanimously elected him to be the captain for the 1910/11 season. The Globe article highlighted his popularity and creativity. They credited him with creating several popular rally chants. Unfortunately, the 1910/11 Arlington team lost the championship to Melrose. At the end of the season, the Massachusetts’ Freemasons of Hiram Lodge hosted a “Ladies Night” with Forrest and his older sister attending.

Forrest’s hockey days did not end with high school. He played a season on the Intercolonials alongside Raymie Skilton and next season on the Boston Athletic Association’s Unicorns with Ralph Winsor. Also during this time, he coached, probably instructed is better, the Arlington High School team for a few seasons including the epic 1912/13 championship run. Forrest remained with the Unicorns until he joined the Navy.

As the war wound down, Forrest remained in Pensacola where the Navy sent him for flight school. In December 1918, he initiated with the Hiram Lodge of the Massachusetts Freemasons. He achieved full membership in February 1919. Although his membership card listed Arlington as his residence, he spent considerable time in Florida. Newspapers note his attendance to several social functions in Florida between 1920 and 1925. While he continued to travel, he eventually settled in Atlanta, Georgia by 1930.

By 1930, he also joined the Church of Christ, Scientist, and became a public practitioner.   Around this same time, he met Lillian Owens (White), who was also involved in Christian Science. Lillie’s father was a key figure in growing the Atlanta Constitution, a newspaper. She also engaged in several social functions including leading committees in the Brenau College Club. They’d marry in 1935. After 1935, A few times, he offered opening remarks for guest speakers from the Boston head church. His congregation elected to be a reader at least once. And, he regularly rendered final rites.

As for children, Forrest does not appear to have fathered any. Lillie’s two boys were in their early twenties when Forrest and Lillie married. Forrest and Lillie retired to New Smyrna Beach, Florida in 1946. Just two years later, Forrest would die in 1949 after an illness. Lillie passed on in 1979. While these facts are known, questions will remain about the charismatic, Bostonian hockey youth who surrounded himself with Southern social elites.

Sources:
1. Forrest C. Osgood player profile. Society for International Hockey Research. (Note: Requires paid account.)
2. Hiram Lodge, Massachusetts.
3. Forrest Clifford Osgood. Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Masons Membership Cards 1733–1990. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. (Courtesy of Ancestry.com)
4. Year: 1930; Census Place: Atlanta, Fulton, Georgia; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0096; FHL microfilm: 2340097 (courtesy of Ancestry.com)
5. Year: 1940; Census Place: Buckhead, Fulton, Georgia; Roll: m-t0627-00675; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 60-23A (Courtesy of Ancestry.com)
6. Christian Science Practitioner. Wikipedia.
7. Boston Globe, Atlanta Constitution, Orlando Evening Star and other newspapers courtesy of newspapers.com

The NAHL: Wendell Gage Reycroft

People identified Wendell Gage Reycroft as a well-liked, well-rounded, solid performer who transformed an industry.

Born May 1894, Wendell attended Arlington High School as a class of 1913. He played a strong game of hockey along with team mates Jack Hutchinson and Forrest Osgood. Arlington H.S. faced Melrose H.S. for the 1912/13 Interscholastic League Championship. Each school’s record was 11-0-1, with the tie game being with each other. Arlington scored more goals 55-10 over Melrose 48-11. However, people considered the teams to be generally even matched. For the game, Wendell, right wing, opposed Percy Wanamaker, left wing. The ref called the game after 65 minutes with double overtime. At the end, the game tied 2-2 resulted in a playoff that would be played on March 19, 1913. To front page news, Arlington won the game 2-0 and cinched the 1912/13 championship. Franklin Collier illustrated Wendell’s winning goal for the Boston Globe.

In high school, Wendell did not make the interscholastic team. He simply played the game well. This carried over to his Dartmouth days.

Wendell played hockey on Dartmouth’s team from 1913/14 until 1916/17. While at college, he continued to play alongside many notable hockeyists like George Geran and Robert Paisely. Finally, his hard work earned him a spot on an All-Collegian team in 1916.  Unlike his contemporaries, Wendell elected to not play on any of the local amateur teams. His brother, Louis, took the competitive sports mantle.

In April 1917, he joined the Navy Reserve in Rhode Island. The Navy activated him and sent him overseas as an aviator. After coming back, he joined Bassick, a caster and floor truck manufacturer, in 1920. By 1933, he rose to a vice president position. Additionally, he co-founded the Caster and Floor Truck Manufacturers Association, which is now known as the Institute of Caster and Wheel Manufacturers (ICWM). He also became a president of the organization. Through the organization, he helped create industry standards for casters and wheels.

In 1920, Wendell married his high school sweetheart, Eleanor Russell. They both enjoyed golf. However, Eleanor excelled at it. She became state champion for Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Bridgeport Country Club elected her president at least once. Golf started for Eleanor at age 10 and didn’t stop until 98. Besides golfing, she supported many charities including Girl Scouts, Visiting Nurses and American Red Cross. Gloria Negri excelled in summarizing Eleanor’s life for Boston Globe’s obituary.

Wendell retired in 1959 and passed away 1978. Eleanor died at 109 in 2004. By all accounts, Wendell and Eleanor were very affable people, intelligent and persistent.

Sources:
#. Institute for Casters and Wheel Manufacturers.
#. Directory of Industry Advisory Committees. United States War Production Board. January 1943. Government Printing Office.
#. Dartmouth College Class of 1917 reunion – 1953.  (Second Row, sixth person from the left.)
#. Wendell Reycroft Retirement. Bridgeport Post. 1958.
#. Eleanor Russell Reycroft Obituary. Boston Globe. 2004.
#. Military, Compiled Service Records. World War I. Wendell Gage Reycroft, ENS. National Archives, St. Louis.
#. Wendell Gage Reycroft, player profile. Society for International Hockey Research. (Note: Requires paid account.)
#. Boston Globe, Bridgeport Post, Montreal Gazette and other newspapers courtesy of newspapers.com

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: John “Jack” Gouverneur Hutchinson

In December 1917, the First Naval District acquired John G. Hutchinson from a private life as a farm manager. By the end of the month, Jack joined the First Naval District hockey team and assisted them to their first exhibition win over the Boston-based Arena Hockey Club. As with many other John’s of the era, newsprint often referred to him as “Jack”. Knowing this helped tracked him to the start of his hockey playing in Arlington High School in 1908 and all the way through his Amherst (Massachusetts Agriculture). He played amateur hockey for Boston Athletic Association until at least 1926. When he transitioned to coaching, he earned a new nickname, the “old fox”, which carried him through the 1930s. However, Jack’s era was the era of amateur hockey. As amateur hockey diminished, Jack blended into the background as well.

The “old fox” was born in Arlington, Massachusetts on July 20, 1891. He played high school hockey during his last two years at Arlington High School. When he attended Massachusetts Agricultural College (UMass Amherst), he played from 1911 until 1914. During this period, John also spent time in the military achieving the rank of sergeant prior to enlisting in the Navy. John’s high school and college years prepared him well for the future.

John became a Naval Aviator too late in the war to see action. In a bit of unintentional foreshadowing, his Naval Air Station Bay Shore flight school record states:

A little slow to learn – quiet – Industrious – Has confidence – good attitude – handles men well.

The instructor who noted that John “handles men well” probably did not expect him to become a successful hockey coach.

John did not immediately transition into coaching. He played in the US Amateur Hockey Association with the Boston Athletic Association Unicorns until 1926. After a two year hiatus, he started managing BAA hockey. In 1931, he managed the “university club” team. With nearly ten years of coaching and management experience, the Amateur Athletic Union selected him to lead the 1939 United States’ hockey team. On the cusp of WWII, John took ten players to Switzerland. They walked away with Silver.

Even as a coach, John maintained an Amateur status. He found work primarily as an automotive mechanic. Whether it was an automotive job or an airplane job, John worked at Roosevelt Field Inn in the early 40s. Roosevelt Field was one of the busiest airports in the United States in the 20s and 30s. Roosevelt Field Inn opened in 1930, which was nearly four years after Charles Lindbergh made his famous transatlantic trip. Shortly his WWII draft card listing, he moved on to Cote Motor Company.

After 13 years at Cote and two months of retirement, John Hutchinson passed away at his son’s house on October 4, 1956. In a twist of bureaucratic fate, John lived on in Veteran’s Affairs records. In 1963, a John G. Hutchinson claimed VA benefits from the West Roxbury VA hospital. While it probably was a mix up between him and his son, a probable WWII veteran, these little mysteries of every day heroes can be misleading trails or tantalizing puzzle boxes. Those that survived John include Edith, a son, and two grandchildren. Much like John, they blended into the historical background of every day life.

Sources:
1. https://www.sihrhockey.org/member_player_sheet.cfm?player_id=48798 (Note: Requires paid account)
2. http://scua.library.umass.edu/youmass/doku.php?id=m:morrill_act
3. National Archives, john Hutchinson [Service # 001723610], https://catalog.archives.gov/id/3488255
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1939_Ice_Hockey_World_Championships
5. https://teamusa.usahockey.com/page/show/2669052-1939-iihf-men-s-world-championship
6. https://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/roosevelt-field-through-the-years-1.10862824
7. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Mason Membership Cards, 1733-1990 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.  (Note: Requires Paid Account)
8. Boston Globe courtesy of newspapers.com

Additional sources:
Morrill Land Grant background: https://www.aplu.org/library/the-land-grant-tradition/file
Amherst under President Meiklejohn (1912-1923) https://www.jstor.org/stable/368850?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
https://bayshore.greaterlongisland.com/2018/01/02/31061-from-history-remembering-bay-shores-wwi-air-base-local-hospitality/

The NAHL: Dr. George Joseph Gaw

For a man who only pitched in six major league baseball games, Dr. George Joseph Gaw remains closely associated with the game. But, baseball was not his only passion. George was a dentist, ship builder, WWI Navy Veteran, coach and a hockeyist. Along the way, he earned the nickname “Chippy” or “Chippie”. And, he married Dorothy Schroeder, a Newton HS basketball star and Chippy’s high school crush. In many ways, George Gaw was just your average New Englander.

George Gaw came into this world on Sunday, March 13, 1892 in Newton, Massachusetts. He played baseball (pitcher) and hockey (forward) for Newton High School. In 1911, Gaw entered minor league baseball with the Lancaster Red Roses. The move to Pennsylvania lasted just one game. Chippy returned to Boston after a couple of days. He bounced back eventually earning on spots the International League, AA ball at the time. Chippy helped the Buffalo Bisons win the pennant in 1915 and 16. In 1917, the Bisons released Chippy in mid-season mainly due to contract conflict. However, the Bisons waited until a badly pitched game before handing him the “blue ticket”. The Providence Grays picked him up.

In the off season, Chippy attended Tufts Dental for a dental degree. By 1914, sports writers labelled him as the “kid dentist”, “tooth twirler” and similar mash ups. By 1916, he opened a small dentistry office in Waltham, Massachusetts. As the war came, he shut down everything and joined the Navy Reserve. With the Navy, Chippie played on Ralph Winsor‘s hockey team and later on the baseball team.

As the war wound down, Chippy returned to the civilian games he never left. In 1920, the Chicago Cubs brought him up for six games before pushing him to Milwaukee Brewers, a AA-team at the time. Through all of this, Chippy focused on finishing his degree, which happened in 1921. Chippy’s baseball career ended on September 9, 1928 in front 15,000 people. Chippy pitched for the losing South Boston against Quincy in Boston’s Twilight League. Chippy coached college baseball, too. In 1920, he coached Boston University. In 1921, it was Harvard’s second team getting expertise. Finally, Chippy settled down at BU starting in 1924 until 1928.

As for hockey, Chippy stopped playing and started coaching. First, he coached Lafayette in Buffalo and Pomfret high schools. In 1920/21, MIT picked Chippy to coach hockey. Although he played for Newton High School (1910) and Tufts, people expected Chippy to coach in the “Winsor style” that he learned in the Navy. From 1921/22 until 1928, Chippy coached Dartmouth (1), Princeton (2), and Boston University (4). In the move to BU, he replaced former teammate John James O’hare as head coach. Across those years, he recorded .581 (50-31-5) win percentage. (NOTE: does not include MIT era.)

After his sports careers wound down, George never really left baseball. He gave hockey one last coaching attempt in 1932. Unfortunately, Chippy was too serious for the Boston Hockey Club. But, Chippy was on the mound for old-timer games like one on July 12, 1939. He engaged in Babe Ruth’s final appearance as player in a July 12, 1943 exhibition game. He commented on Pantsy Donovan’s passing, too.

With the onset of World War II, Chippy registered for the old man’s draft in April, 1942. At the time, George listed Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard as his place of employment. The Navy used this site to build many Destroyer Escorts. Even with this 25 million dollar contract at the shipyard, George filed for bankruptcy in 1943. Tragedy struck again when one of his sons, David, murdered his estranged wife in 1952. George and Dorothy just worked through it all.

In the midst of near retirement, he picked up a fascination for bullfighting. He would trot down to Nogales during spring training. He learned Spanish. Traveled across Spain and Italy in ’59. In mid-December 1960, the basketball star, whom he married in Bermuda, passed away. Focused on spring training and his grand children, George pushed through until David’s parole. In 1968, George followed Dorothy. Despite the baseball championships or the Ivy league hockey wins, Jerry Nason reminded us that to Chippy ¡Olé! equaled his other sports accomplishments.


Tue, May 28, 1968 – 29 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com

Sources:
1. Chippy Gaw, “The Doctor is in”. Diamonds in the Dusk. Nov 8, 2012.
2. Year: 1916; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2456; Line: 4; Page Number: 82
3. Coach George Gaw. College Hockey News.
4. Hingham Shipyard History. Wikipedia
5. Chippy Gaw’s Obit. Part1, Part2. Jason Nason. Boston Globe. May 28, 1968.
6. Boston Globe

Other Sources:
1. Boston Terriers Men’s Hockey Recordbook, 1917-2016. Boston University.
2. Boston University Baseball Club. Boston University.
3. Boston Terriers Team History. College Hockey News.
4. Hingham Shipyard History. Smith Yacht.
5. List of WWII Navy vessels built at Hingham. ShipBuildingHistory.com

The NAHL: George Pierce Geran

A Dartmouth College kid hailing from Holyoke, Massachusetts glided on to the ice for the U.S. Navy in 1917. Possessing a natural talent for hockey, he danced around players from around the world over the course of his hockey career. Unlike his contemporaries, Jerry, or Gerry, only played hockey in high school. This focus and dedication led him to playing in the NHL, twice, in the Olympics, once, and several other hockey stages.

George Pierce Geran, or Jerry or Gerry for short, possessed a natural talent for hockey which many claimed to rival Hobey Baker‘s skill. Born in 1896, Jerry completed high school in Holyoke. Dartmouth accepted him in 1915, where he captained the freshman hockey team.  After the United States joined the war, Jerry traveled to Montreal and was selected by the Montreal Wanderers, one of the first NHL teams. Raymie Skilton also joined the Wanderers. However, it is not clear if they traveled together or if Raymie arrived later. Regardless, the Montreal Arena burned down cutting short both of their NHL careers. They returned to Massachusetts and joined the Navy Reserve.

While in the Reserves, Jerry played for the US Navy hockey in the US NAHL. Putting him in touch with Ralph Winsor, George Brown and Roy Schooley amongst others. This exposure creates an opportunity for Jerry to play on two USA Olympic ice hockey teams, 1920 and 1924. Some where between Montreal and the Navy, Jerry develops a friendship with Raymie that carries past the war and into the Boston Shoe Trades.

Jerry played on the Boston Shoe Trades for only one season. During that one season, Jerry probably learned the leather business. In 1921, he traveled to Paris on a business trip with Murray Leather Company. He would stay in France for the 1921 and much of the 1922 season. While in Paris, Jerry maintained his hockey skills at the Club des Patineurs de Paris. At the end of 1922, he returned to Massachusetts and the Boston Athletic Association Unicorns. He found a way out of his 1924 Olympic commitment. Then, he preceded to assist the Unicorns to at least one USAHA championship before leaping over to the Boston Bruins for the 1925-26 season.

Across the 30s and 40s, Jerry bounced around as his fancy. Whether it was becoming a professional scout for the New York Rangers. Or, professional development for a new team and rink in Hartford, Connecticut. He even traveled back to France to play in one final seasons during 1932-33. However, his last great push was the creation of the “Association of Professional Hockey Players of America”, the forerunner to today’s NHL Player’s Association (NHLPA). Over the course of Spring ’41, Jerry tried to get players and owners involved in an association to protect and provide for players in retirement. Despite not being the president, Herb Manning, of the Winnipeg Tribune, seemingly derided the effort as a money making scheme for Jerry. Jerry would at least live to see Ted Lindsay and others create the NHLPA in 1967.

In Jerry’s waning days, he’d pen opinions about Brooklyn sirens, honking and baseball in letters to the editor of the Daily News. After 1949, his active public profile waned to almost nothing. Dink Carroll lamented that Jerry’s time in France made him fat and past playing prime. But, Jerry played in the era’s top tier U.S. hockey league, the US Amateur Hockey Association. So, I think Dink’s criticism a bit unfair. Jerry died in Brooklyn at 85 in 1981, and the world did not take note of a man dedicated to his friends and sport.

Sources:
1. George Geran, Player Profile. Society of International Hockey Research. *Note: Paid Account Required.
2. 1920 Antwerp Olympic Winter Games. USA Hockey.
3. Montreal Arena. Wikipedia.
4. Club des Patineurs de Paris. Wikipedia.
5. Manning, Herb. One Man’s Opinion. Winnipeg Tribune. 22 April 1941.
A. The Boston Globe, Boston.
B. The Daily News, New York

The NAHL: John James O’hare Jr., esq.

John James O’hare Jr. maintained a sense of community through active engagement in alumni functions and public service. Born on 6 July, 1897, J.J. O’hare was one of the youngest members on the First Naval District hockey team. Like Raymie Skilton and other teammates, J.J. O’hare played multiple high school sports, including football (quarterback), baseball (1st base), and hockey (defense). During his time at English High School, J.J. earned the nicknames “Brick” (football) and “Red” (hockey), but, it was by “Brick” that he was known.

Brick graduated high school in April, 1917 and joined the Navy Reserves in September, 1917. He answered George Brown’s “call to sticks”. Ralph Winsor selected him for the team. This fortuitous event would lead to the formation of Boston University’s official hockey team.

Student movements tried twice between 1917 and 1922 to create a B.U. hockey team. The 1917-18 team played one game. Unfortunately, the war probably doomed this first attempt. The war absorbed much of the available sports talent. As a result, many colleges and amateur leagues decided against hosting an official team or championship series. East coast based hockey paused for the 1918-20 season. B.U. attempted a 1919-20 team but it only played two games. As a club team, it was likely hindered in securing games.

In 1920, B.U. reorganized its athletic association to include student leadership. Brick became its first vice president. Ever since taking the post, Brick attempted to get B.U. president Daniel Marsh to authorize an official hockey team. When Brick graduated B.U. in 1922, the seemingly ever-present George V. Brown also directed B.U.’s athletic association. With Brown’s backing, B.U. finally got an official hockey team for the 1922-23, and Brick would be its first coach.

Despite playing hockey since high school, Brick was not a good a coach. He got progressively worse over the course of his two years. His first season ended with 2 wins and 6 losses. Brick was known to “play the man”. He recounted the first time he played the MLB Hall of Fame Catcher Mickey Cochrane. He directed Cochrane to knock down George Owen every time [Owens] was on the ice. Several close games against skilled coaches like Ralph Winsor earned him a second season. Unfortunately, Brick finished with 1 win and 8 losses. “Chippie” Gaw replaced Brick for the 1924-25 season. For his effort, B.U. inducted John J. O’hare as an inaugural Hall of Fame member in 1959.

Brick graduated B.U. with a law degree. Bouncing around a few different law firms in the Boston area, Brick found his career in the Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority (MBTA) as a trial lawyer. In the public’s eye, his legal activities remained second to alumni support.

Brick played in alumni games and presided over alumni activities well into the 1960s. He participated in the English High School annual football and hockey games until the mid-30s. The Globe noted his alumni activities and charity work for B.U. until the 60s.

Brick remained a local man all his life. He lived in Jamaica Plain. He worked and schooled in Boston. He died in Framingham. A dedicated man with a strong sense of community.

charlestown navy yard hockey teamcharlestown navy yard hockey team Tue, Feb 26, 1918 – 7 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.comSources:
1. Boston University Hall of Fame.
2. Boston Terrier Hockey 1922-23, College Hockey News.
3. Boston Terrier Hockey 1923-24, College Hockey News.
4. J.J. O’hare Obituary. The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts. 21 Nov 1981
5. Mickey Cochrane Obituary. The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, 10 Jan 1962
6. Other Boston Globe papers, courtesy of Newspapers.com.

The NAHL: Raymond “Raymie” Skilton

Raymond “Raymie” Nelson Skilton typifies the fallen athlete hero. A star player from high school whose infamy grew as his fame departed. Perhaps, these simplified story lines belie a more complicated man. Or, maybe, the truth is as simple and direct as the man appeared to be.

Raymie’s illustrious hockey activities started as a Rindge Manual Training School goalie in 1905. He switched to defense in 1907. This position change was not a drastic change unlike the same shift in modern-era hockey. The early goalie was a normal player with no extra padding and strict rules. When the goalie got hurt, another player would simply step into the crease. If his later years reflect his youth, Raymie sought action and created it when missing. The static position of goalie probably clashed with Raymie’s innate personality.

Raymie shone as an early-era hockey “offensive defenseman”. Between the checking and scoring, Raymie led teams to victory. During the 1917-18 USNAHL season, he scored 11 goals in 11 games. During the height of his career, he typically averaged around a goal a game, which places him in contention with other forwards of his era.

Raymie did not limit himself to hockey, though. The Boston Globe named Raymie as Boston’s “Best All-Round Athlete” in 1916. The articled listed football, baseball, swimming, and horseback feats and accomplishments. Raymie played football and baseball in high school. At the time, ice hockey was a minor sport and played in the off-season between football and baseball. Raymie’s skill with horses possibly developed during his time with the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia (MVM). Raymie was actively engaged across a spectrum of sports until the early 1920s.

Raymie changed during the war years, but not because of war itself. Raymie seemed to run from war and leaving Massachusetts. Newspapers pondered the fate of local amateur sports if the MVM sallied forth for the Mexican Punitive Expedition. Raymie let his enlistment expire. When the U.S. Navy activated him, Raymie requested deferment due to economic hardship. The public figure of post-war Raymie struck a tarnished and exposed figure compared to pre-war Skilton.

Raymie’s hockey career ran into a brick wall after getting blacklisted by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) in 1921. Raymie recruited three Canadians for the Shoe Trades club of the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association. Later, Irving Small revealed that amateur and Olympic athletes would be paid via cigarette tins. A practice fairly common in the New York amateur hockey scene in the 1900s and 10s. The ban was reversed before the start of the 1922 season, and he resumed playing.

This was only one of the many troubles experienced by Raymie Skilton in the post-war years. Court cases for verbally assaulting police officers, reckless driving and vehicular manslaughter assailed Raymie in the 20s. While the courts acquitted him, more legal troubles awaited him in the 30s.

Having lost his leather import business, he worked for a small company called Telenar Corporation in the 40s and 50s. Despite a seemingly quiet time during the 40s, the lawsuits and legal troubles renewed after he acquired patents related to a new metal production process called cold-flow processing. During the months long and very public legal process, he was even accused of offering the patents to Communists in a Mccarthy-era attack.

For all the commotion, Raymie Skilton passed away without much public notice on July 1, 1961. His passing caught the Boston Globe off-guard. They did not report it until February 1962. Eight months later! However, I don’t think the oversight diminishes his accomplishments as one of the first prominent, America-born Offensive Defensemen.

Sun, Feb 25, 1962 – 59 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com