Early NHL: The Underdog Black Hawks

In 1938, Canadians and hockey fans everywhere were shocked when one of the league’s worst teams won the Stanley Cup.

Written by Ryan Kessler

April 9, 2012

Championship teams are supposed to represent the best a league has to offer. However, in 1938, Canadians and hockey fans everywhere were shocked when one of the league’s worst teams won the Stanley Cup. Not only that, but they did it with a roster some thought was nothing more than a gimmick.

Chicago Black Hawks owner Major Frederic McLaughlin decided before the 1937–38 season that he wanted his team to win a Stanley Cup with only American players — his patriotism stemmed from time he spent in the First World War.

Had McLaughlin stuck to his plan, he would’ve had only one forward, one defenseman, and one goalie. Instead, he brought in five more American players — the most of any Stanley Cup winning team.

At first, McLaughlin’s experiment seemed to be a failure. The team finished with only 14 wins in 48 games, a full 30 points behind the division-leading Boston Bruins. However, the Black Hawks were better than Detroit Red Wings by only two points, allowing them entry into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In the playoffs, the Black Hawks stunned the hockey world when they defeated the Montreal Canadiens and New York Americans in the first two rounds.

In the Stanley Cup Final, the Black Hawks were the clear-cut underdogs against the mighty Toronto Maple Leafs. It also didn’t help their chances that their starting goalie, Mike Karakas was taken out of the lineup with a broken toe.

Yet the Black Hawks — who had such a pitiful regular season — managed to win the next two games with minor league goaltenders. The Black Hawks lost the third game, but in the fourth, Karakas came back to win a Stanley Cup for the city of Chicago.

The 1938 Chicago Black Hawks have the worst record (14–25–9) of any team to win the Stanley Cup.

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