Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Earl Seibert - The Pinnacle
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Earl Seibert was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963
Earl Seibert was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Chicago Black Hawks had a new coach to start the 1937-38 season — Bill Stewart, former NHL referee and baseball umpire. The team, comprised of a large number of American players, unusual in the NHL at that time, struggled through the regular season. Scoring the fewest goals of any of the eight NHL teams, the Hawks finished with a woeful record of 14 wins, 25 losses and 9 ties for a disappointing 37 points. But that total allowed Chicago to finish third in the NHL's American Division, behind Boston (67 points) and New York Rangers (60 points), but two more than the even-more-awful Detroit Red Wings. That allowed Earl Seibert and the Chicago Black Hawks to participate in the playoffs that spring.

In the quarter-final, Chicago faced the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal took Game One, but the Hawks shut out the Canadiens in Game Two. Seibert scored a goal late in the third game, giving the Hawks the best-of-three series.

Chicago then faced the New York Americans in a best-of-three semi-final. The Americans won Game One. Game Two was a scoreless tie until late in the game when Nels Stewart scored for New York. But wait! Referee Clarence Campbell ruled 'no goal,' claiming that Eddie Wiseman was in the crease at the time of the goal. In turn, Cully Dahlstrom scored for Chicago to tie the series. In the deciding third game, Alex Levinsky of the Hawks scored the go-ahead goal, but the goal light didn't go on. It turned out that New York fans were holding the goal judge's hands so he was unable to signal the goal. Chicago was awarded the goal. The Americans worked tirelessly but were unable to tie the score and the Black Hawks won the series, earning an unlikely berth in the Stanley Cup final.

The final pitted Chicago against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had finished first in the Canadian Division during the regular season. To make matters worse for the Black Hawks, their goaltender, Mike Karakas, broke a toe and was unable to fit his foot into the boot of his skate. Without back-up netminders during that era, coach Bill Stewart asked league permission to borrow Davey Kerr from the New York Rangers, but Toronto manager, Conn Smythe, refused to allow the substitution.

In 1938, Earl Siebert and the Chicago Black Hawks defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Final
In 1938, Earl Siebert and the Chicago Black Hawks defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Final.
(Le Studio du Hockey/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Instead, the Hawks were forced to use Alfie Moore, a Toronto native who had spent the season with the Pittsburgh Hornets of the International American Hockey League, although he had played a handful of games for the New York Americans the previous season. The minor leaguer, a last resort, played the game of his life, holding the powerful Maple Leafs to a single goal as Chicago won 3-1. As he left the ice surface, Moore thumbed his nose at the Toronto bench.

Moore was given an engraved watch for his services and although he was prepared to dress again for Chicago in Game Two, the NHL ruled that he was ineligible to play again for the Black Hawks. Instead, Chicago was forced to go with Paul Goodman, who had played with Chicago's American Hockey Association affiliate, the Wichita Skyhawks. Toronto took Game Two by a 5-1 count.

Game Three moved to Chicago after the two opening contests played at Maple Leaf Gardens. Regular netminder, Mike Karakas, squeezed his foot into his skate boot, now protected by a steel toe, and skated to the crease for Game Three. Chicago edged the Leafs 2-1.

Game Four, also played in Chicago Stadium, saw Karakas in goal once more. The Hawks set an attendance record with 18,497 fans shoehorned into the rink. The Black Hawks skated to a relatively easy 4-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup.

The league was so certain that the Hawks would not win Game Four that they did not even send the Stanley Cup to Chicago. With the win on April 12, 1938, the Hawks had no Cup to hold in celebration.

Rookie coach Bill Stewart won a championship, but would be fired the following season. Earl Seibert, who had been moved up to right wing during the final, played well, scoring a goal and adding an assist in the four-game series. It was his second Stanley Cup championship, having earned a victory in 1933 with the New York Rangers as well, and the pinnacle of his Hall of Fame career.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.