‘Boom! Boom! Boom! Just like that’ Fred Hucul had a tough time believing what he was seeing when his teammate Bill Mosienko scored three goals in 21 seconds to set an NHL record 70 years ago

For decades, people have recounted the remarkable performance of March 23, 1952, at Madison Square Garden as though they’d seen it with their own eyes.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/03/2022 (196 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For decades, people have recounted the remarkable performance of March 23, 1952, at Madison Square Garden as though they’d seen it with their own eyes.

Fred Hucul earned the right to tell all the stories he wants. He had one of best seats inside the old barn that night in downtown Manhattan — and not as some casual spectator, either.

The pride of Tuberose, Sask., just 20 years old at the time, watched in awe from the Chicago bench as his high-flying teammate, the late William (Bill) Mosienko, fired pucks in rapid succession behind New York Rangers goalie Lorne Anderson.

In doing so, Mosienko set an everlasting record, registering the fastest hat trick in NHL history. The Winnipegger scored three goals in just 21 seconds — each assisted by centre Gus Bodnar — to propel the Blackhawks to a 7-6 comeback victory over the Rangers.

It was the 1951-52 regular-season finale, pegged as a meaningless matchup between a pair of non-playoff squads. In fact, the Rangers organization closed the mezzanine and balcony, preparing for the arrival of just a few thousand die-hard fans.

There was, however, nothing trivial about what unfolded exactly 70 years ago.

Submitted photo Fred Hucul (Tim Gassen / Arizona Daily Star files)
“I was in that game, for sure, the big one. You bet I was there,” Hucul, now 90 and living in Tucson, Ariz., proudly tells the Free Press. “I sure remember that. That’s the biggest highlight of my career.”

Of the 30 players split between the two Original Six teams who suited up that night, only Hucul is still alive.

Admittedly, his memory isn’t what it used to be.

“He got hit in the head too many times,” says his wife Waunetah.

“I never wore a helmet!” Fred fires back with a laugh.

But he had no trouble describing in detail Mosienko’s historic achievement.

Long time, no see

Fred Hucul maintains he holds an NHL record of his own.

The former teammate of Bill Mosienko played his final game with Chicago in late January 1954 before spending the next 13 seasons split between several of the Blackhawks’ minor-league squads.

Fred Hucul maintains he holds an NHL record of his own.

The former teammate of Bill Mosienko played his final game with Chicago in late January 1954 before spending the next 13 seasons split between several of the Blackhawks’ minor-league squads.

When the NHL finally expanded, St. Louis acquired his rights and he was in the Blues’ lineup on opening night — Oct. 11, 1967 — earning an assist in a 2-2 tie with the Minnesota North Stars in a battle of two of the league’s new kids on the block.

Hucul’s protracted absence from the big league is believed to be among the longest gaps between NHL appearances by a player.

“I was one of the original Blues,” says Hucul, who finished with a pair of goals and 13 assists in 43 games for St. Louis.

He’d undergone a spinal fusion only six months before his Blues debut.

“The doctors thought I was crazy,” he says.

— Jason Bell

“It happened so fast. It was a heck of a thrill to watch it,” he says. “Boom! Boom! Boom! Just like that. It was really something to see. That’s (a record) that will never to be broken.”

Missing the services of their top goalie, Charlie Rayner, the Rangers went with Anderson, an unproven youngster, to tend the crease. Top defenceman Hy Buller, meanwhile, played but was hobbled by an ankle injury. Still, the short-staffed Rangers held a 6-2 lead early in the third period.

That’s when Bodnar and Mosienko, 30 at the time, went to work.

Bodnar, who hailed from the Thunder Bay area, connected with his speedy winger from Winnipeg’s North End, who beat Anderson at the 6:09 mark for his first tally of the night. Off the ensuing faceoff, Bodnar gained control of the puck and dished it to Mosienko, who dashed past Buller and pumped in a low shot at 6:20 for goal No. 2.

Curiously, he retrieved the puck from the net, unaware the truly monumental tally was still to come.

“I dug that puck out because it was my 30th goal of the season,” Mosienko told reporters. “I guess some of the fans thought it was pretty funny when I got the puck. A bunch of them hooted and laughed.”

Blackhawks coach Ebbie Goodfellow elected to stick with the red-hot pair, along with winger George Gee, for another faceoff at centre ice. Bodnar immediately grabbed possession and slid the puck to Gee, who found Mosienko in full stride for the third jewel of the historic feat at 6:30.

“Mosie comes back to the bench and we’re happier than hell,” says Hucul.

He and Mosienko were fast friends, on and off the ice. They often stayed just down the hall from each other at Chicago’s old Midwest Hotel (now a chic apartment block at the corner of West Madison Street and North Hamlin Avenue), a frequent landing spot of Blackhawks players.

“He was a super, super guy, a good team man,” said Hucul. “It couldn’t happen to a better player.”

Mosienko later said he had to be cajoled into requesting the chunk of frozen rubber from one of the officials before play resumed following his third tally.

“I wasn’t sure what to do until one of our forwards, Jimmy Peters, told me to get the puck. ‘That’s a record, Mosie!’ he kept yelling.” – Bill Mosienko

“I wasn’t sure what to do until one of our forwards, Jimmy Peters, told me to get the puck. ‘That’s a record, Mosie!’ he kept yelling,” Mosienko told a reporter.

Chicago teammate Bill Gadsby made a post-game prediction that has stood the test of time.

“That record will never be broken. Never,” he said. “It was just fantastic, it was damn near the same play off the faceoff each one. He could really skate. He could really fly and he scored those three goals. I mean, it was unbelievable just to watch it!”

Bodnar’s triad of assists in 21 ticks of the clock is also an NHL record.

Hockey Hall of Famer William (Bill) Mosienko set an everlasting record with the fastest hat trick in NHL history against the Rangers on March 23, 1952.
Incredibly, Mosienko nearly registered a fourth goal just 45 seconds later but rang a hard drive off the post.

His hat trick pucks reside in a permanent exhibit in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

“The Mosienko display is one of our most popular displays at the Hockey Hall of Fame,” says Phil Pritchard, curator of the shrine that encompasses the game’s storied history.

“Our guests can’t believe that someone scored three goals in 21 seconds. Equally, though, they can’t believe we have the three pucks, the stick and the photo. We just recently received a ticket stub from the game, as well.”

Toss your headwear!

Three goals in 21 seconds? By the same player? You’ve gotta be kidding!

Indeed, the NHL record is held by the late Bill Mosienko of Winnipeg. To get some perspective on the miraculous feat, check this out:

The fastest three goals by two teams in NHL history were scored Feb. 10, 1983. Mark Pavelich and Ron Greschner of the New York Rangers and Willi Plett of the Minnesota North Stars scored in a span of 15 seconds in the final minute of the second period of Minnesota’s 7-5 victory.

Three goals in 21 seconds? By the same player? You’ve gotta be kidding!

Indeed, the NHL record is held by the late Bill Mosienko of Winnipeg. To get some perspective on the miraculous feat, check this out:

 The fastest three goals by two teams in NHL history were scored Feb. 10, 1983. Mark Pavelich and Ron Greschner of the New York Rangers and Willi Plett of the Minnesota North Stars scored in a span of 15 seconds in the final minute of the second period of Minnesota’s 7-5 victory.

The Boston Bruins used up just 20 seconds to score the fastest three goals by one team against the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 25, 1971. John Bucyk, Ed Westfall and Ted Green did it in the third period of an 8-3 win.

Before Mosienko’s hasty hatty, Jack Darragh of the Ottawa Senators held the record for the fastest hat-trick by a player, scoring three times in 60 seconds on Jan. 16, 1919.

Canadiens’ great Jean Beliveau has the second-fastest hat trick (44 seconds), recorded Nov. 5, 1955 in Montreal.

Derek King of the New York Islanders scored the fastest hat trick in the expansion era (since 1967), firing three goals in 78 seconds on Oct. 15, 1991 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Most recently, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point supplied three goals in a 91-second span over the first and second periods in a win over Pittsburgh on Nov. 15, 2018.

For years, the trio of well-worn black biscuits collected dust inside a basement bureau and were occasionally removed when family and friends dropped by the house near the corner of Cathedral Avenue and Airlies Street for an up-close look at pieces of hockey history.

Mosienko’s son, Billy, said the descendants of the NHL star from the 1940s and ‘50s take immense pride in his accomplishments and the opportunity to carry the family name.

“It’s pretty amazing, actually, what he did,” he says. “We still get that all the time. You say your name, Mosienko, or show your ID, and it’s incredible the amount of people that do remember.”

Bill played junior hockey with the Winnipeg Monarchs before signing with Chicago in 1940. He played in the American Hockey League for the better part of two seasons before making his NHL debut in late January 1942.

He patrolled the right wing on the Blackhawks’ renowned Pony Line, with the Bentley brothers, Max and Doug, for several seasons. He won the Lady Byng Trophy — awarded each year to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability” — in 1945, and was twice named an NHL second-team all-star (1945, ’46).

A ticket stub from the game on March 23, 1952.

During his 14-year career, Mosienko recorded 258 goals and 540 points in 711 games, all with Chicago, and was inducted into the HHOF in 1965. Fifteen years later, he was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

After leaving Chicago in 1955, he went on to skate with the Winnipeg Warriors of the WHL for four seasons before retiring from pro hockey in 1959 — turning his attention to operating his iconic Main Street bowling centre.

He died July 9, 1994, at the age of 72.

A mural honouring the hockey legend, painted by Jen Mosienko (wife of Bill’s grandson Ken) is located on the south wall of the bowling business near the intersection of Main and Redwood Avenue.

Long-time Blackhawks team historian Bob Verdi says Mosienko is still revered in the Windy City, as well.

“He did something special at a time when the Blackhawks weren’t a good hockey team,” Verdi says. “They only won 17 hockey games that season. They only had a couple of winning seasons back then.”

Chicago made the playoffs just four times during Mosienko’s tenure.

“His name pops up now and again. Somebody will score two goals in a minute and five seconds, and someone a lot younger than me will say, ‘Holy, s—t, is that a record? Of course, Mosienko did a lot better than that,” Verdi says, laughing.

“Three goals in 21 seconds? You don’t even get three shots in 21 seconds. I can’t see how it gets broken. Like, wow!”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 8:25 PM CDT: Updates deck

Updated on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 6:53 AM CDT: Updates cutline

Updated on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 9:10 AM CDT: Clarifies graph on retiring

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