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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sam and Peter LoPresti - 1974-75 Minnesota North Stars Pete LoPresti Jersey

Minnesota native Sam LoPresti played for the St. Paul Saints of the minor league American Hockey Association for three seasons from 1937-38 to 1939-40, highlighted by his final season when he had a record of 29-18 with a 2.55 goals against average. The Saints then went on to beat the Omaha Knights in four games for the AHA championship as LoPresti went 6-1 with a 1.29 goals against during the playoffs.

1939-40 St Paul Saints team
The 1939-40 AHA champion St. Paul Saints
with LoPresti front and center

During the 1939-40 season, LoPresti impressed Chicago Black Hawks President Bill Tobin and Head Coach Paul Thompson during an exhibition game between the Saints and Black Hawks, who signed LoPresti for the 1940-41 season. He was first assigned to the Kansas City Americans, also of the AHA. In 18 games, he posted an 9-9 record before being recalled in January of 1941 when Chicago goaltender Paul Goodman retired.

LoPresti had a tie and three wins in his first four starts for the Black Hawks, but the going got rough the rest of the way as he went 6-15-2 the rest of the way, which included his first NHL shutout on February 27th, a 1-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. He also set an NHL record on March 4, 1940 that still stands today when he made 80 saves in a regulation 60 minute game in an eventual 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins. Of his record setting game, LoPresti recalled, "They were shooting from every angle and I didn't see half the shots. They were bouncing off my pads, chest protector, my arms, my shoulders. I didn't even know where they were coming from. I lost between eight and ten pounds that night."

Sam LoPresti Blackhawks
Sam LoPresti while with the Chicago Black Hawks

He played 47 games in 1941-42, with a 21-23-3 record with 3 shutouts but that was the end of his career as he enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. He was assigned to the SS Roger B. Taney, which protected ships as they crossed the Atlantic. The Taney was torpedoed and sunk in February of 1943 and LoPresti was listed as missing in action, thought to be a casualty.

However, as the Taney sank, LoPresti and 25 other men abandoned the ship and sought safety on rafts. The next morning, those on the rafts were picked up by the #4 lifeboat, but with minimal food or water. The lifeboat then made a nearly 2,500 mile voyage to the South American coast. LoPresti in particular was credited with saving the men's lives by fashioning a weapon by lashing a knife to a boat hook. He then dove into the water and was able to catch a 35 pound dolphin, which provided blood to drink and meat, which they cooked in a metal bucket with a fire made of rags and kerosene. The men were finally rescued off of the coast of Brazil 42 days after their ship sank. LoPresti had lost 55 pounds during the time he was lost at sea.

After he returned from the war, LoPresti played. for the San Diego Skyhawks of the Pacific Coast Hockey League in 1943-44 and 1944-45. He then returned to Minnesota and continued to play senior hockey with the Duluth Coolerators, Duluth Steelers and finally the Eveleth Rangers. LoPresti was a charter member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973.

Sam married his wife Carol in 1941 and they had a son, Pete LoPresti, who was born on May 23, 1954. Pete became a goaltender like his father, and attended the University of Denver in 1972-73, getting into four games before becoming their starter in 1973-74 when his workload increased to 38 games, winning 22.

LoPresti Pioneers 2
Lopresti in goal for the Pioneers

He turned pro the following season with the New Haven Nighthawks of the AHL, playing in 11 games prior to making his NHL debut with the Minnesota North Stars, where he split time with incumbent Cesare Maniago. It was a baptism by fire, as the North Stars were at a low point in their history, finishing below 70 points for the second of six consecutive seasons, all while trying to fend off competition from the cross-town WHA Minnesota Fighting Saints.

LoPresti North Stars, LoPresti North Stars
LoPresti made his NHL debut in 1974-75
the last season for this jersey style

On this date in 1975, rookie LoPresti earned his first career shutout, a 5-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, making Peter and his father Sam not only the first father/son duo to ever play in the NHL, but also the first father/son combo to each record a shutout in the NHL. LoPresti ended his rookie season with a 9-20-3 record in 35 games, essentially the same as veteran Maniago.

Pete-LoPresti card fact
Sam and Peter LoPresti were the first father/son goaltending combo
in NHL history and the first pair to also record an NHL shutout

His second season with the North Stars was equally as trying, as he finished 7-22-1. With Minnesota failing to qualify for the playoffs, LoPresti was tabbed to join the United States for the 1976 World Championships in Poland. There, the US finished 3-3-1 in the First Round, thanks to wins over Sweden, Poland and West Germany and a tie with Finland. That was good enough for fourth place out of eight and a spot in the Final Round, eventually finishing fourth.

Before the next NHL season could begin, a new competition made it's debut and LoPresti was again called upon by the United States, along side fellow Minnesotan Mike Curran, to take part in the 1976 Canada Cup, which hoped to capitalize on the success of the 1972 Summit Series.

LoPresti USA 2
LoPresti defending the American goal against
Gilbert Perreault of Canada during the 1976 Canada Cup

For the 1976-77 season, Maniago was gone, and in his place arrived new goaltending partner Gary Smith. The North Stars improved from 47 to 64 points in the standings, which allowed LoPresti to set a career high with 13 wins in 44 games. The North Stars qualified for the playoffs for the only time during his tenure with the team, but were quickly ousted in two games.

 LoPresti North Stars 2

He would attain clear #1 status for the 1977-78 season, playing in 53 games with now Paul Harrison backing him up, but the unsettled North Stars would go through a series of three head coaches while stumbling to a last place finish as LoPresti won 12 times.

LoPresti North Stars, LoPresti North Stars

With the North Stars again missing out on the playoffs, he was off to Czechoslovakia for the 1978 World Championships. LoPresti started nine of ten games for the Americans, including wins over East Germany and Finland.

LoPresti USA, LoPresti USA
Peter played for the United States on three occasions

Huge changes were in store for the North Stars in 1978-79, who had now added several top draft picks as well as the unprecedented merger with the Cleveland Barons, which saw the arrival of established number one goaltender Gilles Meloche and his Barons backup and 10-year veteran Gary Edwards, which not only limited LoPresti to just 7 starts, but also relegated him to the minors with the Oklahoma City Stars for the bulk of the season, where his winning record of 16-15 was his first since college.

LoPresti North Stars Orr Boston
LoPresti defending against Bobby Orr of Boston

He was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1979 Expansion Draft, but when he failed to make the Oilers roster following training camp, he retired but returned for the 1980-81 season, playing in 2 games for the Oilers as part of their revolving door in goal, which saw Andy Moog (7 games), former North Stars teammate Edwards (15), Ron Low (24) and Eddie Mio (43) all see time goal.

LoPresti Oilers 2
LoPresti played two games for the Oilers

The majority of his season was spent playing 36 games for the Wichita Wind in the Central Hockey League before retiring for good after a career unfortunately saddled with bad luck, including once having an easy save bust through his goalie stick and into the net for the game winning goal, and bad timing, having been on some very dismal teams during his six years in the NHL and failing to stick with the Oilers, who were on the verge of a dynasty.

Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 Minnesota North Stars Pete LoPresti jersey as worn during his rookie season when he and his father Sam became not only the first father/son duo in NHL history, but also the first to each record a shutout as well.

The North Stars joined the NHL for the 1967-68 season wearing green jerseys with wide white waist and arm stripes with narrow gold trim. For their second season of 1968-69, a white shoulder yoke was added and the jerseys then remained unchanged through the 1974-75 season.

 Minnesota North Stars 1974-75 F jersey
Minnesota North Stars 1974-75 B jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1976 United States National Team Pete LoPresti jersey as created for the 1976 Canada Cup. This amazing jersey with it's fully chain stitched crest and sewn on names, numbers and shoulder stars was actually only used in the pre-tournament games by the Americans, as the players complaints about the weight of he heavy dureen fabric and how hot the sweaters were, especially in the late summer heat of late August, led to the USA wearing mesh jerseys with screened on graphics for the actual tournament games, a far cry from the outstanding workmanship which went into today's featured jersey.

This would be the only appearance of this style jersey, as the Americans reverted back to their standard jerseys for the 1977 World Championships.

USA 1976 Canada Cup jersey, USA 1976 Canada Cup jersey
USA 1976 Canada Cup jersey, USA 1976 Canada Cup jersey

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1976 United States National Team Pete LoPresti jersey as worn during the 1976 World Championships in the spring prior to the 1976 Canada Cup. This style was a carry over in look of the United States jerseys which date back to the late 1960's, illustrating what a radical design today's featured 1976 Canada Cup jersey was, obviously inspired by the nation's Bicentennial celebrations, which had occupied the minds of all Americans that year.

USA 1976 World Championships jersey, USA 1976 World Championships jersey
Photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video selection is the United States taking on Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup with LoPresti in goal while wearing today's featured style jersey.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article! But I have a minor quibble about the statement below: "This would be the only appearance of this style jersey, as the Americans reverted back to their standard jerseys for the 1977 World Championships."

    Actually, the "star spangled jersey" remained in use through the end of the 1976/77 season, including the IIHF ice hockey world championships in Vienna. See team photo below




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