Sunday, February 28, 2016
To say that the 1928-29 edition of the Chicago Black Hawks were not a high scoring team is a severe understatement. The franchise was originally stocked for it's inaugural 1926-27 season with players from the defunct Portland Rosebuds of the Pacific Coast Hockey League.
That first season the club faired well enough, finishing third in the five team American Division with a record of 19-22-3 in a 44 game schedule while scoring a league best 115 goals when the league average was 88 and their nearest pursuer had less than 100 at 99. However, Chicago also allowed a league high 116 goals against, 8 more than anyone else. Still, they qualified for the playoffs but were defeated in a two-game, total-goals series 10-5 by the Boston Bruins. Babe Dye led the club with 25 (good for second in the league), followed by Dick Irvin's 18, with Gord Fraser, George Hay and Mickey MacKay all with 14.
Their second season saw their goal output plummet to just 68, eighth out of 10, while their goals against rose to 134, easily the worst in the league as the NHL average that season was 84. That combination led to the club finishing last in the American Division with a 7-34-3 record for 17 points in the standings. MacKay led the team with 17 goals followed by Duke Keats' 14, while no other player had more than 6.
For the 1928-29 season Vic Ripley was brought in from the Kitchener Millionaires of the Canadian Professional Hockey League, as was Johnny Gottselig from the Winnipeg Maroons of the American Hockey Association.
The 1928-29 Chicago Blackhawks
The season began on an ominous note, as the Black Hawks were shutout on opening night 2-0 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. A 4-2 loss to the Montreal Maroons followed before another 2-0 shutout at the hands of the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates, who would only win 9 games all season.
Three more losses would follow before a 3-2 win over the Pirates would bring Chicago it's first points in the standings for the season and first time in seven games scoring as many as 3 goals in a game. This was followed by another 2-0 shutout loss, this coming in Ottawa at the hands of the Senators.
Three games later, Chicago suffered back to back shutouts at home to the New York Americans and the Montreal Canadiens. They rebounded with a pair of wins on the road over the Boston Bruins and Americans to improve their record to 4-9-1. This was followed by a 15 game winless streak, as the Black Hawks lost five consecutive games, scoring 3 and being shutout twice more.
A pair of 1-1 ties against the Montreal Maroons and Pirates ending the losing streak, but any sign of momentum was squashed with three consecutive shutout losses. Another 1-1 tie with the Senators followed prior to four more losses, which included another pair of shutouts. On February 2, 1929, Chicago's winless streak reached 15 games with a 3-2 home loss to the Rangers, the first time Chicago had scored two goals in a game since December 27th, their last victory prior to their winless streak.
Finally on February 5th, the Black Hawks won a game to end their winless streak, thanks to an offensive outburst of...
a single goal in a 1-0 win over the Detroit Cougars, which made their record 5-21-4.
It was during their next game that the club began a run of futility the likes of which has never been seen since. The Black Hawks were shutout in consecutive games by the Americans 1-0, the second game coming at home.
Their home stand continued, as did their scoreless streak with a third straight 1-0 loss, this to the Canadiens. Boston and Ottawa took turns beating Chicago 3-0 in the Windy City. Back to back games with the Cougars came next, with the first resulting in a 0-0 draw, Chicago's sixth straight game without a goal and fifth in a row at home without lighting the lamp in front of the home fans.
The return match in Detroit went the way of the Cougars 3-0 followed by another 0-0 draw at home to the Rangers on this date in 1929 to extend the Black Hawks scoreless streak to an NHL record eight games without even a single goal. It was also the 20th time in 38 games the Black Hawks had failed to score.
Their eight game goalless, winless streak ended with a 2-1 win over the Maroons and the season wound down with a 1-2-2 record in their final five games, a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh and four consecutive games scoring a goal in each.
The final record for Chicago that season was 7-29-8, which was actually 5 points better in the standings than the previous season. Although Chicago had the same number of wins with 7, they registered 8 ties versus 3 the season before thanks in part to reducing their goals against from 134 to 85, an improvement of 49 from the year before.
Unfortunately, the Black Hawks goals for was an abysmal 33 goals scored in 44 games, an average of .75 per game, or just 3 goals scored for every 4 games played. Their 33 goals were 13 less than the Pirates.
Ripley did lead the team in goals for the season with 11, the only player on the club with double digits, as Irvin came second with 6 and Gottselig's mere 5 was enough to place third on the offensively challenged team. Chuck Gardiner played all 44 games in goal for Chicago and his 1.85 goals against average speaks to how hard he worked to keep Chicago in nearly every game, which included posting five shutouts of his own, knowing his goal support was going to be minimal, as the Black Hawks scored a season high of just 3 goals but once and 2 goals seven times, with Gardiner getting wins in five of those eight times. He even managed ties during two of the games during which his team failed to score.
As a result of the league-wide dearth of goals that season, Ace Bailey led the league in 1928-29 with 22 and the Canadiens George Hainsworth posted a league record 22 shutouts, which still stands today despite a schedule now twice as long, drastic rule changes were implemented to open up the game, mainly now allowing forward passing in the offensive zone. This resulted in a dramatic increase in goal scoring, ranging from Pittsburgh's 102 up to Boston's 170. The previous season, the Bruins led the NHL with 89.
Chicago rose from 33 to 117 goals scored, including 14 games with 4 or more goals with a high of 6 after just one single game with even 3 goals the year before. They were held scoreless just 3 times, down from their record of 20.
Today's featured jersey is a 1928-29 Chicago Black Hawks Vic Ripley jersey. This was the first black sweater in NHL history, created when the Black Hawks reversed the colors of their original white sweaters worn during their inaugural season in 1926-27. This style was worn for seven seasons, which concluded with the Black Hawks first Stanley Cup championship in 1934.
Ripley played five seasons for Chicago before being traded to the Bruins, who later sent him to the Rangers. He was next sold to the St. Louis Eagles for his seventh and final NHL season, but continued to play in the minor leagues seven additional seasons. His final NHL totals were 283 games played, 51 goals and 47 assists for 98 points.