Tragedy struck after Black Hawks first cup win
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/06/2022 (355 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After the Chicago Black Hawks won their first Stanley Cup in the spring of 1934, tragedy struck the team not once, but twice, that summer. In both cases, it happened in Winnipeg.
In April, Chicago beat the Detroit Red Wings three games to one in the National Hockey League final. The 1-0 championship series victory came in the second period of overtime of game four on a goal by Harold (Mush) Marsh.
The final had a distinct Winnipeg flavour with two local goalies in the net. Chicago captain Charlie Gardiner gave up just two goals in his club’s three victories. Wilf Cude backstopped the Red Wings to their only win. In the final game, Marsh’s goal was the only shot he let in; he stopped 52 others. Gardiner had 40 saves in his shutout. Gardiner and Cude were boyhood friends who attended Albert School in the inner city. Being slightly older, Gardiner had been a mentor to Cude both on and off the ice.
The Black Hawks roster included Winnipeg products Art Coulter and Bill Kendall, St. Boniface’s Lolo Couture, and Montreal-born Johnny Sheppard, who learned his hockey in Selkirk. Along with the two goalies, they all have been inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.
During the final, Gardiner had been quietly dealing with a tonsil infection that went to his kidneys and he was in pain. As a result, he was not in his best form in the third-game 5-2 loss. Who could have speculated that his shutout in game four would be the last game he would ever play?
After Gardiner arrived home in Winnipeg, he attended a number of community events, played some golf, and sang in the choir at Central Church. On Friday, June 8, he felt sick, but seemed better the next day. That Sunday evening, he collapsed and his doctor ordered rest. His condition did not improve and on the morning of June 13, he was admitted to St. Boniface Hospital. Gardiner died that afternoon at age 29.
Among the countless tributes and remembrances was one from NHL managing director Frank Patrick who said that he doubted if there had ever been a more popular player in hockey. Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe said, “You name a man who can compare to him, either at the cage or as a man or a friend.”
Gardiner’s funeral was held at Grace United Church on June 15. Thirty members of sports organizations such as the Winnipeg Maroons hockey club, the Winnipeg Gun Club, and the Tammany Tigers with which he played baseball and rugby, served as ushers. A public viewing was held with four of the city’s top athletes: Baldy Northcott, Lolo Couture, Frank Frederickson and Ward McVey, serving as honour guards.
In 1945, Gardiner was inducted in to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto with the first group of inductees. In 2018, he was permanently recognized in Winnipeg when the Pioneer Arena on Logan Avenue was renamed the Charlie Gardiner Arena to honour one of our province’s greatest athletes.
On Aug. 7, 1934, the Winnipeg Free Press front page headline read “Hockey Star Feared Murdered.” Jack Leswick, a Chicago Black Hawks forward, had been found dead in the Red River on Aug. 4, and family and friends believed he was robbed and killed. Leswick, 24, had joined the Black Hawks after four seasons in the American Hockey Association and played 37 games in the 1933-34 season
The case was closed the next day as the police and the provincial coroner were satisfied Leswick had taken his own life. There was no indication of foul play and no inquest was held. Leswick, who had been missing for several days, left his valuables in the suite where he had been staying. His brother Peter, who later played 16 years of pro hockey, said,“Suicide would have been the farthest thing from his mind.”
Jack Leswick, whose home was Saskatoon, had arrived in Winnipeg on July 15 by car with Peter and two companions. A report out of Chicago following his death said that the forward had been traded to Cleveland of the International League two weeks earlier. Whether or not he knew about the transaction is not known.
T. Kent Morgan
Memories of Sport
Memories of Sport appears every second week in the Canstar Community News weeklies. Kent Morgan can be contacted at 204-489-6641 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org