On Monday night the Chicago Blackhawks have a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time since their championship season in 1938. If they manage to pull it off with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6, it will not only be the first time the Blackhawks have won the Cup on their home ice since '38, it will be the first time the Cup has actually been physically awarded to the Blackhawks on home ice since ... 1934.
Yeah. That's right. Even though they won in 1938, there was no Stanley Cup to be awarded to them on that night.
How in the world did that happen?
As it turns out, the 1938 Blackhawks were a pretty bad hockey team even though they ended up winning the Stanley Cup.
Well, they were a pretty bad team during the regular season. They finished with a 14-25-9 record which was only the sixth best record in the eight team league (only the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons won fewer games that season).
No team in the NHL scored fewer goals that season.
But once the playoffs started they went on what has to be to this day one of the most improbable championship runs in league history as they beat the New York Americans and Montreal Canadiens in the first two rounds, before beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Final, three games to one. The third win came on home ice.
Because League president Frank Calder didn't believe Chicago would win, he had the Stanley Cup sent from Detroit -- winners of the previous year's Cup -- straight to Toronto.
From a 2010 Chicago Tribune article on the '38 Blackhawks:
Frank Calder, the first president of the NHL, thought so little of the 1937-38 Blackhawks that, prior to the Cup finals against the heavily favored Toronto Maple Leafs, he had the Cup dispatched from Detroit – where the Red Wings had won it the previous season – to Toronto, and didn't bother to re-route it to Chicago even as the Hawks had an opportunity to clinch the series at home.
But that might not even be the most incredible story about that Stanley Cup Final series.
The series began with the Blackhawks being without their regular starting goaltender, Mike Karakas, who was unable to play due to a broken toe.
Because the Blackhawks had no backup goalie available on the roster, and their replacement, Paul Goodman, could not make it to Toronto on time, they received permission to use Alfie Moore, a minor league goalie who had spent the majority of season -- minus two games he appeared in for the New York Americans -- playing for the Pittsburgh Hornets of the IAHL.
Blackhawks coach Bill Stewart had originally attempted to convince the league to allow the team to use New York Rangers goalie Davey Kerr in the game. Maple Leafs manager Conn Smythe and the league refused that request. Former NHL referee Paul Stewart, who is Bill Stewart's grandson, wrote back in April that decision actually led to a hotel fist fight between the older Stewart and Smythe.
The legend only grows from there.
As it turns out, Moore had a bit of a drinking problem that would eventually help cost him his career.
But time was short, and Hawks left winger Johnny Gottselig, who knew Moore, found him at a tavern, already several drinks for the worse. "He'd had about 10 or a dozen drinks," Gottselig said, recalling the incident years later in an interview with John Devaney, author of "The Stanley Cup."
"We put some coffee into him and put him under the shower. By game time, he was in pretty good shape."
Because of the condition Moore was in, Stewart originally refused to allow him to play in the game until he was presented with no other options.
Not only did Moore turn out to be in "pretty good shape," by game time, he allowed only one goal in what would be a 3-1 Blackhawks win.
After Goodman eventually joined the team, and because Smythe was, according to the story, irate at losing to a "hung over minor league goalie," Moore was declared ineligible for the remainder of the series. Goodman played Game 2 and allowed five goals in what would be the Blackhawks' only loss.
Karakas was able to return for the next two games and allowed only two goals, leading the Blackhawks to the championship.
The 1938 Blackhawks were also notable because Stewart was the first American-born coach to lead a team to the Stanley Cup. The roster also had what was at the time an unprecedented eight American-born players on the roster. To put that number into perspective, there were only six other American-born players on every other team in the league. Combined.
Moore was given $300 and a gold watch for his play in Game 1.
No matter what happens on Monday night in Chicago, it's probably not going to compare to the 1938 team.