Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Born: 24 June 1906 -
Died: 15 May 1986, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

by: Ron "Scoreboard" Johnston

Many people thought Johnny Gottselig was born in Canada, but he was actually born (24 June 1906) along the banks of Dnieper river in a tiny German Catholic village of Klosterdorf in the Swedish district in the Kherson Governorate of the Russian Empire (now part of Ukraine)

His family moved to the Canadian prairies when Johnny was just an infant. Later on in life. as his hockey career progressed to the point when he was constantly crossing the Canadian-American border to play in the National Hockey League, he would often create great delays since he declared his birthplace as being Russia. At that time relations between the Soviet Union and the Americans were beginning to thaw as a prelude to the Cold War, hence the reason why Johnny was of interest to American authorities. Eventually Johnny realized that it would be a whole lot easier to filled out his border crossing papers as being born in Canada. (Photo: Ron "Scoreboard" Johnston - Collection)

Gottselig was the secord born Russian player in the history of the National Hockey League. Johnny played junior hockey for the Regina Pats from 1923-24 to the 1924-25 season. He then moved on to the senior Regina Victorias, the Regina Capitals of the Prairie League and the AHA's Winnipeg Maroons He later became head coach of the Chicago Black Hawks, and became the first European head coach in the NHL.

Gottselig was a nifty skater and puck handler, and a noted penalty killer who liked to rag the puck. He was respected around the league as a creative left winger "who could make a fool out of you if you didn't watch him closely."

After helping the Regina Pats win the Memorial Cup in 1924-25. Gottselig signed with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1928-20 season. It was the first of 18 years with the Hawks as a player. In total he played in 589 games, picking up 176 goals and 371 points.

Gottselig was a big part of Stanley Cup wins in 1934 and 1938. During the 1938 post-season he led all scorers with eight points in ten games. The following season he scored a career best 39 points and was named to the NHL second all-star team. He became the team's Captain from 1935-36 to the 1939-40 season.

He would coach the Hawks (1944 to 1948) for 3 years. Gottselig brought his players to his home town of Regina, Saskatchewan and started a training camp Wednesday, September 28, 1946, at the Queen City Gardens. He was also with Chicago in 1961, as Director of Public Relations, when they won their third Stanley Cup. Gottselig was included on the team, but his name was not engraved onto the Stanley Cup.

Later he served as their publicity director and worked on the radio broadcasts. He would eventually leave hockey to become an executive with Stone Construction, a manufacturer of concrete pipes. (Jersey Photo's: Earl Seibert -collection)

Like many prairie players of his era, Gottselig's other passion was baseball. In 1942 Gottselig was instrumental in the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the brain child of Chicago based Philip K. Wrigley, the chewing gum mogul. Gottselig's contacts back in softball-hotbed Saskatchewan led to many Canadian girls joining the four team league, notably Mary "Bonnie" Baker, All-Star catcher for the South Bend Blue Sox. Gottselig himself was the first manager of the Racine Belles in 1943, leading the team to the AAGPBL's first championship. He later managed the Peoria Redwings and the Kenosha Comets.

Johnny Gottselig died 15 May 1986, at the age of 80 in Chicago, Illinois. 

Burial: Calvary Cemetery, Evanston, Cook County, Illinois