Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Ivan "Ching" Johnson was born on this date in 1897 and played football and lacrosse as a youth. At the age of 19 he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force and fought for three years in France during World War I. It was not until he returned from Europe that he played his first competitive hockey for the Winnipeg Monarchs in 1919 at the age of 21.
He relocated to Eveleth, Minnesota and competed for three years for the Eveleth Reds in the United States Amateur Hockey Association before the defenseman moved down to Minneapolis in 1923 to play for first the Minneapolis Millers, followed by the Minneapolis Rockets and then back to the Millers over the course of the next three seasons.
Despite being of Irish decent, he was given the nickname "Ching" due to people believing he had an Asian appearance. He was also known as "Ivan the Terrible" for his hard hitting style of play and was often seeing grinning after a hard hit, given or received.
With the expansion of the NHL taking place during the 1920's, the brand new New York Rangers recruited Johnson as well as his Millers defensive partner Taffy Abel. Being 28 years old, Johnson insisted on a three year contract, believing it would be the only one he would he would ever sign.
During his second season, Johnson was amass 146 penalty minutes, second only to the legendary Eddie Shore's 165. He set a personal high that season with ten goals, was voted team MVP by the Rangers fans and got his name engraved on the Stanley Cup as the Rangers took home top honors during only their second season of play, the first American team in NHL history to win the cup, although all of the games in the finals were played in Montreal due to the circus occupying Madison Square Garden at the time!
He missed all but six games of the following season due to a broken ankle and had to be evacuated from the hospital in Montreal due to a fire! He returned in time for the playoffs as the Rangers returned to the finals.
He was signed to a new three year deal, now aged 31, but again missed a large portion of the season due to a broken jaw, which led to him wearing an unusual protective headgear.
Johnson wearing a steel device to protect his broken jaw
He avoided injury in 1930-31 to play in all 44 of the Rangers games that season and was rewarded by being named to the league's second All-Star Team. His popularity and fame began to grow when he was named to the first All-Star Team and finished just one vote short of being named the winner of the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP the following season.
In 1932-33 Johnson was again a first team All-Star and helped lead the Rangers to their second Stanley Cup championship. The next season he was a participant in the league's first All-Star Game, a benefit for the Maple Leafs Ace Bailey, who's career was ended by a violent hit by Shore.
The 1932-33 Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers
Such was Johnson's popularity that he was included in the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings Gum trading 48 card set, along with the likes of sporting legends Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Red Grange, Jim Thorpe, Kunte Rockne and Bobby Jones, one of only four hockey players in the set, along with Shore, Howie Morenz and Bailey.
1933 Sport Kings Gum Ching Johnson card
He would play three more seasons with the Rangers, the last of which while also serving as the team's defensive coach. Following that 1936-37 season Johnson asked the Rangers for his release. He was signed by the New York Americans for one final NHL season at the age of 39 in 1937-38. He played in 31 games, but failed to register a point for the second consecutive season. This brought a close to his 12 year NHL career, far outlasting his original three year contract.
Even though his NHL playing days were over, Johnson returned to the Minneapolis Millers as a player coach for two seasons, drawing large crowds. After retiring from play at 41, he continued to coach as well as working as an on-ice official, which included an incident when working as a linesman when he forgot he was no longer in the role of a player and hit an unsuspecting puck carrier with a bodycheck!
Johnson was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958.
Johnson accepting his Hall of Fame plaque
Today's featured jersey is a 1937-38 New York Americans Ching Johnson jersey as worn during his only season with the Americans.
The Americans began play in 1925, the year before the Rangers, and remained in New York until 1941 prior to changing their name to the Brooklyn Americans (although they continued to play in Manhattan's Madison Square Garden!) for their final season of 1941-42 until falling by the wayside, leaving the NHL with "The Original 6".
Best known for their star-spangled home jerseys, the Americans introduced a white road jersey in 1933. They changed to today's featured style in 1935 and it remained in use through the 1938-39 season until the crest underwent some modifications the following season.
We cannot believe we found this one, an interview with Ching Johnson from 1933!