Thursday, October 27, 2011
Frank McCool, born on this date in 1918, played senior hockey in his hometown of Calgary in the late 1930's before enrolling at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he would play for three seasons starting with the 1939-40 season. He would then enroll in the Canadian Army. While in the military, he continued to compete on the ice with the Calgary Currie Army team.
Duty called McCool to serve in World War II, causing him to miss a chance to play in the 1943-44 season. Another player also away from the ice during the war was Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Turk Broda. Broda had been entrenched in the Maple Leafs goal for the past seven seasons, but his absence left the Maple Leafs in need of a replacement. For the 1943-44 season Toronto had turned to Paul Bibeault, who was on loan from the Montreal Canadiens, and Benny Grant, who had not been in the NHL for ten years, to split the time in goal.
Montreal recalled Bibeault for 1944-45 and the 35-year-old Grant now retired, Toronto turned to McCool, who had been discharged from the Army due to his chronic stomach ulcers, hardly the condition suited for the high pressure world of NHL hockey. McCool though, performed brilliantly.
He played every minute of every one of the Maple Leafs' 50 games that season and led the league in shutouts with four, despite sipping milk between periods in an effort to calm his stomach condition. His effort was recognized when he was named the 1945 recipient of the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year.
McCool admires his Calder Trophy
He continued his stellar play in the postseason, shutting out Montreal in the opening game on his way to eliminating the Canadiens in six games, including a gutsy effort in Game 3 when he took an Elmer Lach shot to the forehead one minute into the game. Bleeding profusely, he was led off the ice and emerged ten minutes later, bandaged and ready to play the rest of the game.
He then really caught fire in the finals against the Detroit Red Wings, posting a record three consecutive shutout to open the series, which included taking a break midway through period two of Game 2 to calm his stomach. While Detroit fought back to tie the series at 3-3, thanks to shutting out Toronto 2-0 and 1-0 in games 5 and 6, McCool capped off his dream season by holding the Red Wings at bay 2-1 in Game 7 to capture the Stanley Cup in his rookie season. It was the first time in NHL history that a road team had won a Game 7 of the cup finals.
The 1945 Stanley Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs
He did not play at the start of the 1945-46 season due to a contract dispute with the Maple Leafs. The situation was settled 14 games into the season and McCool returned to the nets, stomach ulcers and all. The 3-9-1 Leafs played 10-9-3 with McCool back in goal, but with 15 games remaining in the season Broda returned from his deployment in January of 1946 and reclaimed his position in the crease for the Maple Leafs.
Rather than seek a job with another team, either in the NHL or in a lower level of play, his stomach ulcers forced McCool to call it a career after just two seasons, yet in possession of a Calder Trophy, a Stanley Cup, the NHL record for most consecutive shutouts in the playoffs and the Maple Leafs team record for most postseason shutouts. Additionally, he became the first goaltender in NHL history to record a point when he was credited with an assist! Quite a resume for a player whose career lasted but a season and a half!
It would take another 26 years for a rookie goaltender to win the Stanley Cup (Ken Dryden in 1971) and his mark of just 9 goals allowed during the finals would stand until 2011 when it was eclipsed by Tim Thomas, who only allowed 8
Today's featured jersey is a 1944-45 Toronto Maple Leafs Frank McCool jersey. This style Maple Leafs jersey was first adopted in 1938 when this style 35 point leaf crest replaced the previous version. This style jersey would remain in use through 1957-58, a run of 20 seasons.
This particular game worn jersey sold at auction in 2006 for $15,617.21, one of the few jerseys McCool would wear during his brief NHL career.